Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 23, 2011
Yemen: At least one protestor killed in Sana’a; JMP official says there will be no dialogue until violence ends; seven ruling party MPs resign; Yemen Observer claims JMP is paying demonstrators; protestor wounded in Aden dies of injuries; military official denies rumors of unrest within infantry brigade; religious officials call for protests to be settled within framework of Islam; details emerge from trial of alleged Iranian spy; naval forces apprehend Iranian ship in Yemeni waters
Horn of Africa: AMISOM soldiers capture al Shabaab trench system and tactical outposts; Kenyan soldiers seal border with Somalia; al Shabaab holds press conference and calls for all citizens to join their militias; White House confirms that Obama authorized use of force against pirates; UN Secretary General condemns killing of four American hostages by Somali pirates; TFG Prime Minister promises to punish pirates
Yemen Security Brief
- Government supporters shot and killed at least one anti-government demonstrator at a rally outside of Sana’a University. Security officials had attempted to separate the two groups and fired automatic weapons into the air to try and disperse the rallies, but pro-Saleh forces charged opposition demonstrators with automatic weapons and pistols, scattering the security forces and killing at least one protestor and wounding nearly a dozen other people. Foreign journalists reported that anti-government protestors did not retaliate, but a government official told the New York Times that “a huge barrage of bullets” had been fired at pro-government supporters, killing at least one person. An estimated 2,000 demonstrators remain outside of Sana’a University.
- Mohamed Abdulmalik al Motawakkil, an official in opposition group the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), announced that the JMP was not “against the dialogue,” but clarified that “as long as the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party is using its thugs to assault and attack the peaceful demonstrators, we cannot have a dialogue.” Motawakkil expressed concern about the validity of any future election, saying, “The president said that the election will be the judge but the election can be tampered. Let the people go out to the street and express their feelings. Let who are against you say what they want and let those who support you say what they want without attacking others.”
- MP Abdul Aziz Jabbari announced that seven legislators from the GPC party resigned in protest against escalating violence towards anti-government demonstrators and plan to form their own political party, bringing the total of MPs who have left the ruling party to nine.
- The Yemen Observer reported that the JMP was paying protestors around 2,000 Yemeni rials per day, along with free food and qat, to protest against the government and participate in rallies outside of Sana’a University.
- Medics told the Associated Press that a nineteen-year old man wounded in Aden last week died of his injuries February 23.
- An unidentified source at the Ministry of Defense told SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, that rumors of unrest within the 133rd Infantry Brigade are completely untrue, adding that the unit’s commander had not fled, as some news sources had reported, and affirmed that discipline within the brigade remains intact.
- The Yemen Observer reported that a coalition of Yemeni religious scholars called for opposition groups and the government to settle their differences within the framework of Islam, emphasizing the need to avoid violence, sectarianism and fanaticism.
- SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, reported details from the trial of Muhammad al Hatmi, who allegedly served as an Iranian spy for over twelve years. Prosecutors presented a confession signed by Hatmi stating that between 1998 and 2010 Hatmi provided intelligence to Iranian officials and received funds to support insurrections in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Hatmi’s wife and son have also been charged with spying for Iran and are awaiting trial.
- The Yemeni Ministry of Defense announced that Yemeni naval forces captured an Iranian vessel and its 13 crew members “after it went into Yemen waters” surrounding Socotra, an island in the Indian Ocean. Bloomberg cited an unnamed security official who said the detainees remain in custody and are being interrogated.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- AMISOM spokesman Major Barigye Bahuko announced that AMISOM forces captured an extensive trench system over a mile long used by al Shabaab fighters to bring reinforcements and supplies to the Mogadishu front lines. AMISOM forces also captured several buildings in northwest Mogadishu used as al Shabaab tactical headquarters, including the former Ministry of Defense, the Milk Factory, and the Military Officers Club.
- Kenyan soldiers closed border crossings after tension between Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a fighters and al Shabaab militants in the village of Beled Hawo in the Gedo region prompted many local residents to try to flee into Kenya.
- Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage held a press conference at Mogadishu Stadium where he displayed the body of a dead AMISOM soldier along with machine guns seized from Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM forces during recent skirmishes in the Bondhere district of Mogadishu. Rage also called for civilians living in areas under al Shabaab control to join the fight, telling reporters, “We are calling for the traditional elders, females, youth and even the children to give hand to al Shabaab fighting with disbelievers and AMISOM.”
- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, confirmed that President Obama had authorized the use of force in the case of “an imminent threat” to the hostages held by Somali pirates.
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement through his spokesman stating that he was “appalled by the reported killing of four American hostages on a yacht off the coast of Somalia,” and emphasized that “piracy off the coast of Somalia is unacceptable.”
- TFG Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed offered his condolences to the relatives of U.S. hostages killed by pirates, and promised to “ensure that the captured pirates are brought to justice.”