Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 13, 2012
Yemen: Ansar al Sharia executes three men accused of helping the United States; southern separatists set fire to protest camp in Aden; al Houthis urge boycott of February 21 election; intelligence officer assassinated in al Bayda; renewed fighting between al Houthis and Sunni tribesmen kills at least 30 people; U.S. federal prosecutors state that Anwar al Awlaki ordered bombing attempt of Christmas Day 2009
Horn of Africa: Somalis rally in support of al Shabaab-al Qaeda merger near Mogadishu; Somalia’s government requests for arms embargo to be lifted ahead of the London Conference on Somalia next week; AMISOM reportedly planning to attack Afgoi; TFG and Kenyan troops clash with al Shabaab in Busar; tribal militias attack local authorities and TFG troops in Beledweyne; MYC in Kenya claims to have joined al Qaeda and speaks on al Shabaab car bombing in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
- Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked insurgent organization that has seized control of territory in Yemen’s south, publicly executed three men on February 12. The men were accused of planting electronic devices that aided the U.S. in carrying out drone strikes. The executions took place in Azzan in Shabwah governorate, and Jaar in Abyan governorate.
- A group of southern separatists set fire to an anti-government tent camp in Aden late on February 11, injuring approximately 10 people. Three separatist groups issued a statement that it was all a northern ruse: "We ask all sides not to be dragged into a colonialist plot aimed at turning the struggle of our people against the (northern) coloniser into a south-south struggle.” The Southern Movement, still factionalized, has come out strongly against the February 21 elections, believing it will only serve to legitimize northern power.
- On February 11, the al Houthis urged Yemenis to boycott the February 21 elections. A spokesman said, "Since the elections has only a sole candidate why then wasting [sic] the public funds and hold elections, whose outcome is already known.”
- A Yemeni political intelligence colonel was assassinated in al Bayda governorate on February 11. Yemeni security indicated that the gunmen were associated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
- A cease fire agreement between the al Houthis and Sunni tribesmen collapsed on February 10. Fighting broke out in Ahm and Kushar districts in Hajjah governorate, killing over 30 people by February 12.
- According to American federal prosecutors, Anwar al Awlaki, the Yemeni-American AQAP leader killed in a September 30, 2011 drone strike, personally ordered 2009 Christmas day “underwear bomber” Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner while it was over U.S. territory. Court documents revealed that Abdulmutallab stayed with Awlaki for three days, before meeting AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim al Asiri. He also met Samir Khan, who helped produce the English-language magazine Inspire, at a training camp.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Thousands of Somalis reportedly gathered near the outskirts of Mogadishu in support of the al Shabaab's acceptance into al Qaeda, which was announced formally by al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri on February 9. Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage, also known as Ali Dhere, stated that the people are content with al Shabaab’s unification with al Qaeda. He added, “We will work with other brothers of AQAP in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world and we are part of them. . . . We are the branch of AQAP in Somalia.”
- Somalia’s government has again requested for its arms embargo to be lifted following al Qaeda’s declaration that al Shabaab has joined its network. Somalia’s information ministry said, “We… believe that their union [al Shabaab and al Qaeda] will increase insecurity in Somalia, east Africa and the rest of the world and that Somalia risks becoming an al Qaeda base in east Africa.” The request comes before the London Conference on Somalia scheduled for February 23. The conference aims “to discuss measures to tackle instability in Somalia and piracy off its shores.”
- African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops will conduct an operation to clear Afgoi of al Shabaab militants. AMISOM’s deputy commander Audace Nduwumunsi reported, “The battle for [Afgoi] will start very soon. We will start attacking very soon, but that depends on the circumstances then.”
- Al Shabaab militants attacked Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Kenyan troops in Busar in Gedo region on February 12. Residents reported that heavy artillery was used. Ten people were killed in the clash.
- On February 11, Colonel Mohammed Nur, Shabelle Valley Administration’s (SVA) information minister, reported that local authorities and TFG troops clashed with tribal militias “that may have links to al Shabaab,” in Beledweyne. Official sources added that Ethiopian troops did not engage in the battle. Five people were allegedly killed in the attack.
- Kenya’s Muslim Youth Center (MYC) group, led by al Shabaab’s leader in Kenya Ahmad Iman Ali, stated that it, too, had joined “al Qaeda East Africa (AQEA),” in a message posted on MYC’s English-language blog on February 10. In a separate message posted on the blog, MYC denied that the TFG had retained control over Mogadishu, citing al Shabaab’s suicide bombing attack on February 8 as an example.