Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 4, 2013

Yemen: Ship seized on January 23 had anti-aircraft missiles onboard, and Iran denies connection; more than 200 accused al Qaeda members on trial including 25 foreigners; Yemeni forces expel Ansar al Sharia militants from Muraqisha, Abyan governorate; negotiations between tribal intermediaries and Dhahabs continue as additional Yemeni forces deployed to region; statement from Ansar al Sharia judge on jihadist website urges Muslims to fight; gunmen in Ataq, Shabwah call themselves “Mullah Zabara Battalions”; members of former 3rd Infantry Brigade revolt

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab claims victory over Ethiopian troops in Hudur, Bakool region, and Djiboutian troops in Beledweyne, Hiraan region; Kenya launches airstrikes on al Shabaab bases near Garbaharey, Gedo region; grenade attack targets Mogadishu police station; grenade attack targets hotel in Hamar Jabjab, Mogadishu; grenade attack targets Kenyan soldier in Wajir, Kenya; Somali troops arrest 25 suspected al Shabaab militants in Beledweyne, Hiraan region; a traditional elder is killed in Boosaaso, Bari region; al Shabaab opens new Twitter account; al Shabaab releases video of residents in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region, praising al Shabaab; British secretary of development announces new Somali developmental program; UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon suggests raising arms embargo on Somalia; trial starts for journalist who interviewed rape victim in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

  • Weapons carried aboard the ship seized by Yemeni forces in the Arabian Sea on January 23 included SA-2 and SA-3 Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), according to Yemeni authorities on February 2. In related news, a UN Security Council team inspected the ship and its contents on February 3, and an Iranian foreign ministry source strongly denied allegations that the ship came from Iran, as has been reported previously.[1]
  • More than 200 accused al Qaeda members are currently on trial before the Special Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the state court, or being investigated by the Special Criminal division of the prosecutor’s office in Sana’a. Twenty-five are reportedly foreigners, including Saudis, Egyptians, Sudanese, Jordanians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Uzbeks, Somalis, and others.[2]
  • Forces from the Yemeni 115th and 111th Brigades and popular committee members expelled Ansar al Sharia militants from the Mojan Mountain area of Muraqisha, Abyan governorate on February 2. Eight Ansar al Sharia members were killed, and another two were captured in the operation, while government forces took no casualties. It is reported that Ansar al Sharia fighters in the area are commanded by Jalal Bal’idi al Marqishi, also known as Abu Hamza al Zinjibari.[3]
  • Negotiations between Yemeni government forces and the Dhahab family through tribal intermediaries regarding hostilities in the military campaign near al Manaseh, al Bayda governorate and the release of Western hostages continued on February 2. As a part of the negotiations, Abdul Raoof al Dhahab confirmed to Al Masdar Online that Ansar al Sharia forces were prepared to leave the region.[4]
  • Additional Yemeni army forces were deployed from Dhamar governorate to Rada’a city in al Bayda governorate in support of forces already operating there. It was also reported that four Somalis and two Saudis were killed, and three Somalis and two Ethiopians were arrested among al Qaeda supporters in the campaign.[5]
  • A statement from Abu Bishr Nasseruddin bin Abdullah, a judge for Ansar al Sharia, was posted on Islamist message board Shumukh al Islam Network on February 1, encouraging Muslims to support Islam and fight the enemy.[6]
  • Gunmen appeared in downtown Ataq, Shabwah governorate on February 4, carrying banners calling themselves the “Mullah Zabara Battalions”, and vowing to avenge the January 10 assassination of Mullah Zabara.[7]
  • Members of the 3rd Mountain Infantry Brigade, a dissolved Republican Guard unit, expelled the brigade staff on February 2 in Ma’rib governorate, after violent clashes between members of the unit. The clashes came after disputes regarding the integration of the 3rd Brigade into the 13th Brigade, as well as the detention of 3rd Mountain Infantry Brigade’s deputy commander, and the selection of certain units from the brigade to guard the presidential palace in Sana’a.[8]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab claimed victory in a battle with Ethiopian soldiers that occured in the town of Hudur, Bakool region on February 2. Al Shabaab also said it defeated Djiboutian troops during an attack that occurred in Beledweyne, Hiraan region on February 1, killing six Djiboutian soldiers. Djiboutian officials say al Shabaab has actually been attacking civilian positions in the town, causing civilian casualties.[9]
  • Kenya launched airstrikes on several al Shabaab positions near Garbaharey, Gedo region on February 2. Kenyan officials claim that they have killed the al Shabaab chairman of Burdhubo, Gedo region. Al Shabaab has not commented on the claims.[10]
  • Unknown attackers threw grenades at a police station in Mogadishu on February 1. Two police officers and one civilian were injured in the attack. The assailants were able to flee the scene.[11]
  • A single source reported that a grenade attack targeted the Medina Hotel in Hamar Jabjab district, Mogadishu on February 4. No one was injured in the attack but several Ministers of Parliament reside in the hotel. The attackers fled the scene but Somali police arrested ten people who were near the hotel during the attack.[12]
  • An unknown attacker threw a grenade at a Kenyan soldier in Wajir, Kenya on February 2. The soldier was killed in the attack. Two police officers and the soldier’s girlfriend were also injured in the explosion. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.[13]
  • Somali troops arrested 25 alleged al Shabaab militants in Beledweyne, Hiraan region on February 3. The suspected militants were traveling in a vehicle from Galkayo, Mudug region.[14]
  • Unknown gunmen shot and killed a traditional elder in Boosaaso, Bari region on February 2. Puntland authorities are investigating the incident but no group has claimed responsibility for the killing.[15]
  • Al Shabaab opened a new Twitter account with the handle @HSMPress1 on February 3, less than two weeks after its old account was suspended on January 25.[16]
  • Al Shabaab released a video on February 1, showing residents of Barawe, Lower Shabelle region praising al Shabaab for the security they provide to their town.[17]
  • British Development Secretary Justine Greening announced a new developmental program for Somalia following a meeting with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on February 4. The program will allow Somali parliamentarians to travel to Norway and England to receive training.[18]
  • United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon suggested on February 1 that the United Nations Security Council should consider lifting the 21-year-old arms embargo to Somalia, saying it could help the Somali forces defeat al Shabaab militants.[19]
  • The case against the journalist who interviewed a rape victim began on February 2 in Mogadishu. Many people are calling for an end to the trial. Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said that his office cannot interfere in the trial but that he supports freedom of the press.[20]       

[1] “Tehran Denies its Relationship with Weapons Ship and Iranian Deputy Ambassador Asks Sana’a to Provide Evidence that Proves Iranian Involvement,” al Masdar Online, February 4, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/article/41242
[2] “The Prosecutor’s Office Receives 10 Files, Among Them Are 200 al Qaeda Terrorists Subject to Investigation and Trial in Sana’a,” 26 September, February 3, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://26sep.net/news_details.php?lng=arabic&sid=88605
[3] “Yemeni Army Controls Last al Qaeda Strongholds in al Muraqisha, Abyan,” al Masdar Online, February 3, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/article/41173
[4] “Reinforcements Arrive in Rada’a, and ‘al Dhahab’ to ‘al Masdar Online’: Ansar al Sharia Prepared to Leave the Area,” al Masdar, January 2, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/article/41165
[5] “4 Somalis and 2 Saudis Killed in Clashes Between Army and al Qaeda in Rada’a,” Mareb Press, February 2, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://marebpress.net/news_details.php?sid=51720&lng=arabic
[6] “AQAP Judge Urges Active Participation in Defending Faith, Fighters,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 1, 2013. Available at SITE.
[7] “Emergence of Mullah Zabara Brigades in Ataq,” Barakish Net, February 4, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://barakish.net/news.aspx?cat=12&sub=12&id=44265
[8] “One of the Defunct Guard Camps Declares Insurgency in Ma’rib: Armed Confrontations Within the Third Mountain Infantry Brigade and Expulsion of their Staff and Selling of Weapons on the Black Market,” Mareb Press, February 4, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lng=arabic&sid=51787
[9] “Al Shabaab Claims Victory during Battles at Bakol and Hiran Provinces,” Kulmiye News, February 3, 2013. Available: http://www.kulmiyenews.com/?nid=12027
[10] “Kenya Says it Has Killed al Shabaab Top Officials at Bombardments in Gedo region,” Kulmiye News, February 2, 2013. Available: http://www.kulmiyenews.com/?nid=12011
[11] “Somalia: Gunmen Wage Night-Time Attacked on Mogadishu Police Station,’ Garowe Online, February 3, 2013. Available: http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_Gunmen_wage_night-time_attacked_on_police_station_in_Mogadishu.shtml
[12] “Ten Arrested Over Hotel Madina Blast,” Bar Kulan, February 4, 2013. Available: http://www.bar-kulan.com/2013/02/04/ten-arrested-over-hotel-madina-blast/
[13] “KDF Soldier Killed in Blast,” Daily Standard, February 3, 2013. Available: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000076477&story_title=KDF-soldier-killed-in-a-blast
[14] “Alleged Militants Arrested in Beledweyne,” Bar Kulan, February 3, 2013. Available: http://www.bar-kulan.com/2013/02/03/alleged-militants-arrested-in-beledweyne/
[15] “Somalia: Puntland Police Hunting down Traditional Elder’s Killer,” Garowe Online, February 2, 2013. Available: http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_Puntland_police_hunting_down_traditional_elder_s_killer.shtml
[16] “Somalia’s al Shabaab Opens new Twitter Account,” BBC, February 4, 2013. Available: http://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2013/Feb/27971/somalia_s_al_shabab_opens_new_twitter_account.aspx
[17] “Shabaab Releases Video of Barawa Residents Praising Group,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 1, 2013. Available at SITE.
[18] “Somalia: UK to Help Build Democratic Government,” Hiiraan Online, February 4, 2013. Available: http://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2013/Feb/27970/somalia_uk_to_help_build_democratic_government.aspx
[19] “UN Chief Suggests Review of 21 Year Old Somalia Arms Embargo,” Reuters, February 2, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/u-n-chief-suggests-review-of-21-year-old-somalia-arms-embargo/
[20] “Subject: The Trial of the Somali Journalist, Abdiasis Koronto Started in Mogadishu,” Shabelle, February 3, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/subject-the-trial-of-the-somali-journalist-abdiasis-koronto-started-in-mogadish/\
“Somali PM Pledges Commitment for Human Rights and Press Freedom,” Shabelle, February 3, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/somali-pm-pledges-commitment-for-human-rights-and-press-freedom/