Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 3, 2012

Yemen: Yemeni government seizes strategic al Haroor area from al Qaeda-linked militants; suspected al Qaeda-linked militants shell army position in Aden; unknown gunmen attack government building in Hajjah governorate; gunmen attack Yemen Army in Arhab; explosion heard at First Armored Division headquarters in Sana’a

Horn of Africa: Fighting breaks out in Mogadishu outskirts; al Shabaab launches assault on Elbur, but fails to retake it; unidentified gunmen attack TFG bases in Baidoa; Muslim Youth Center denies that its leader is dead; al Shabaab fighters attack Red Cross vehicles in Gedo region; Iranian navy captures 13 Somali pirates

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Yemeni military seized control of the strategic al Haroor area in Lahij governorate from al Qaeda-linked militants after two days of air raids and shelling. The militants were forced to withdraw from an army post that they captured on April 2. At least 38 militants were killed in the government assault. A Yemeni army officer said that his forces had been backed by the United States.[1]
  • Suspected al Qaeda-linked militants shelled an army unit stationed in the Khormaksar district in Aden. No casualty figure from the attack was released.[2]
  • Unknown gunmen attacked a government building in the ‘Abs district of Hajjah governorate. One gunman was killed and two soldiers were wounded. The government building housed the district’s security administration. One local official said that he believed the gunmen to be Houthis attempting to free prisoners detained for attacks on local government.[3]
  • Gunmen attacked the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 83rd Republican Guards Brigade, 62nd Mechanized Brigade, and 63rd Mountain Infantry Brigade in Arhab district, north of the capital Sana’a, on April 1. The gunmen used machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) in their assault. It is unclear whether the militants were tribesmen or linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); however, the tribes of Arhab strenuously deny that they harbor AQAP members. [4]
  • An explosion was heard at the headquarters of the First Armored Division in Sana’a, which is commanded by the defected general Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, on the night of April 1. The cause of the explosion was unknown and no casualties were reported. A similar blast was reported last week.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Fighting broke out overnight between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops, backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers, and al Shabaab on the outskirts of Mogadishu’s Dharkenley district. One internally displaced person was killed and seven others were wounded.[6]
  • Al Shabaab launched an assault on April 2 against Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a and Ethiopian forces in Elbur, a town in Galgudud region. At least four people were killed in the fighting, according to local sources, and Ahlu Sunna reported to have killed two al Shabaab militants. Al Shabaab was unable to take the town. Ethiopians and Ahlu Sunna captured Elbur on March 26.[7]
  • Unidentified assailants attacked TFG bases in Baidoa, the capital of Bay region. No casualties were reported. A crackdown followed the attack, in which suspects were brought in for questioning.[8]
  • The Muslim Youth Center, the Kenya-based Islamist group, denied that its leader, Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali, was dead.  Rather, the group said in an April 2 statement, Ali is serving alongside senior al Shabaab leaders in Somalia. Rumors of Ali’s death are “attempts by the kuffar and his ally, KDF to spread propaganda aiming at weakening and dividing the mujahideen in Kenya.”[9]
  • Al Shabaab attacked a convoy of vehicles rented by the International Committee of the Red Cross that was carrying food in Gedo region. One of the drivers, a Somali, was killed in the ambush, which was sprung on the road between Elwaq and El Adde districts.[10]
  • Iranian Navy Commander Habibollah Sayari reported that Iran captured 13 Somali pirates after clashes in the Indian Ocean. In a separate story, Somali pirates released the MV Eglantine, an Iranian cargo ship which they had captured in Maldivian territorial waters on March 26. A ransom, the amount of which is unknown, was paid.[11]       

[1] Ahmed al Haj, “Yemeni Airstrikes Kill 43 al-Qaida Militants,” April 3, 2012. Available: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h_lTaPFsJIjmKX22W4dR-R95jj5Q?docId=960b76648c564921ad2e1beb54861bf4
“Yemeni Forces ‘Kill 38 Qaeda Suspects,’” AFP, April 3, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5016&MainCat=3
[2] “Suspected al-Qaeda Elements Attack Army Brigade in Aden,” Yemen Post, April 3, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5016&MainCat=3
[3] “Gunman Killed in Anonymous Attack on Government Building in Hajjah,” Al Masdar Online, April 3, 2012. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/index.php?page=news&article-section=1&news_id=30459
[4] “Militants Launch Fierce Attacks on Army Posts in North Yemen,” Yemen Post, April 1, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5011&MainCat=3
[5] “Blast Rocks First Armored Division Headquarters in Sana’a,” Yemen Post, April 1, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5014&MainCat=3
[6] “At Least 1 IDPs Killed, 7 Injured in Mogadishu Clashes,” Shabelle Media Network, April 3, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/03/at-least-1-idps-killed-7-injured-in-mogadishu-clashes-2/
[7] “4 Dead after al Shabaab Battle with Ahlu Sunnah Forces,” April 2, 2012. Available: http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_4_dead_after_Al_Shabaab_battle_with_Ahlu_Sunnah_forces.shtml
[8] “Gunmen Assault on Somalia Government Bases in Baidoa,” Shabelle Media Network, April 3, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/03/gunmen-assault-onsomaliagovernment-bases-in-baidoa/
[9] “MYC Denies Death of its Leader, Ahmad Iman Ali,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 2, 2012. Available at SITE.
[10] “Al Shabaab Attacks Red Cross Envoy in Southwestern Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, April 3, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/03/al-shabaab-attacks-red-cross-convoy-in-southwestern-somalia/
[11] Ladane Nasseri, “Iran Captures 13 Pirates after Clash in Indian Ocean,” Bloomberg, April 3, 2012. Available: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-03/iran-captures-13-pirates-after-clash-in-indian-ocean-fars-says.html
“Somali Pirates Release Iranian Cargo Ship,” Garowe Online, April 3, 2012. Available: http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_Somali_pirates_release_Iranian_cargo_ship.shtml