Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 7, 2011
Yemen: U.S. military delivers four helicopters to Yemeni air force; counterterrorism unit begins training; security official survives AQAP assassination attempt; ten AQAP suspects go on trial; President Obama expresses concern over release of journalist convicted of ties to AQAP; Saleh speaks to infantry unit; U.S. Embassy urges opposition groups to avoid “provocative actions”; opposition MPs plan to suspend their parliamentary membership
Horn of Africa: International community condemns TFG parliament extension; four people injured in Mogadishu as al Shabaab fighters and AMISOM soldiers clash; al Shabaab militants kill two people in attacks on AMISOM bases in Mogadishu; at least two people killed in fighting between local militias and Somaliland forces; Ahlu Sunna spokesman announces month-long unilateral ceasefire; Ugandan police warn of possible terrorist attack; al Shabaab official tells crowd to kill all TFG and AMISOM personnel; Puntland security forces arrest dozens in connection with recent instability; al Shabaab militants arrest over 150 people in lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab court amputates hand of teenage boy convicted of theft; Somaliland and Puntland officials travel to London conference on future of Somali government; Somali MPs defend extension of parliamentary mandate
Yemen Security Brief
- The U.S. military delivered four Huey II helicopters to the Yemeni Air Force (YAF) on January 16, 2011, A total of twelve YAF pilots and twenty maintenance personnel were trained on the helicopters. Brandon Denecke, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s team leader for the Building Partner Capacity, Stability Operations and Counterterrorism unit said “the swift execution of the Yemen Huey II program demonstrates that the military departments – in this case the U.S. Army – can quickly deliver defense articles and services to U.S. partners with the cooperation of U.S. industry,” adding that “even more important is that this program is helping the U.S. and Yemen to accomplish their common goals to combat terrorism.”
- SABA News, Yemen’s News Agency, reported that the Yemeni counterterrorism unit has begun a training program designed to improve their skills in battling domestic terrorist threats.
- Major Saleh Bhadris, an officer in the political security office of Hadramawt governorate, survived a suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) assassination attempt. Gunmen on a motorcycle attacked Major Badhris’s car, following him to his house where they continued to fire before fleeing. No casualties have been reported.
- The White House published a readout of President Obama’s February 2 call to President Saleh. President Obama praised the restraint of Yemeni security personnel and encouraged President Saleh to further pursue dialogue with opposition groups. President Obama also urged further action against AQAP, telling his counterpart that “it is imperative that Yemen take forceful action against AQAP to protect innocent lives in Yemen as well as abroad.” President Obama also voiced his concern over the release of Abdulelah Shaea, a Yemeni journalist who had been sentenced to five years imprisonment for providing support to AQAP.
- The trial of ten suspected AQAP militants began in Sana’a. The men, one of whom is Syrian, are accused of being connected to multiple terrorist attacks, including a 2008 explosion at the office of Canada’s Nexen Inc. in the Hadda district of Sana’a, attacks on Yemeni security forces and foreign diplomats, and the kidnapping of a tribal leaders’ son. The court noted that the men had prepared the means, including forged identification cards and explosive devices, for further attacks.
- SABA News, Yemen’s News Agency, reported that President Saleh spoke to soldiers in the 3rd Mountain Infantry Brigade during a visit to their base, emphasizing that construction and development can only take place in a secure environment, and domestic stability requires an effective and powerful security establishment and armed forces.
- The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a issued a press release urging “Yemeni security organizations and demonstrators to refrain from violence and for the government to respect its citizens’ right to peaceful assembly and expression.” The release also noted the efforts of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to encourage a peaceful resolution and concluded with an appeal to opposition parties to “avoid provocative actions and respond constructively to President Saleh’s initiative to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation.”
- Yemen Post reported that members of opposition group the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) are expected to voluntarily suspend their parliamentary memberships in protest of what they called unilateral moves by the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party. JMP official Abdul Malik al Mutawakil told Yemen Post that further protests are planned, saying “our rallies come to urge demands. Currently we don’t seek the ouster of the regime as those in Tunisia and Egypt. The truth is that if the regime refuses our demands, the people will decide.” Al Mutawakil said that JMP leaders had met with the U.S. ambassador and planned to meet with representatives of the GPC soon after receiving President Saleh’s invitation to negotiation.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- U.S., EU, British, UN and Puntland officials condemned the three year extension of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), echoing earlier UN disapproval. Matt Goshko, public affairs officer at the United States’ Somali Affairs Unit in Nairobi told Reuters, “This unilateral three-year extension risks alienating the TFP further and serving as a propaganda coup for violent extremist groups.” An official statement from the U.S. government denounced the move as “self-serving political maneuvering,” that amounted to “a disservice to the people of Somalia and a setback to the establishment of legitimate and effective government.” Matt Baugh, Britain’s senior representative for Somalia, concurred, calling the move “deeply regrettable.” Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also condemned the decision, saying that it was “taken hurriedly without appropriate consultations on the way forward.” Augustine Mahiga, the top UN official in Somalia, labeled the decision “disappointing,” and noted that it was “taken in haste without the required level of discussion and consultation.”
- Al Shabaab militants and AMISOM forces exchanged fire February 6 in the Busley neighborhood of Mogadishu’s Bondhere district, leaving four people injured. Witnesses reported that al Shabaab forces launched multiple attacks on AMISOM bases throughout the district.
- Al Shabaab fighters attacked an AMISOM base in the Hodan district of Mogadishu February 5, killing two people. Local residents reported that the two sides exchanged machinegun and mortar fire.
- Militants from the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) administration attacked Somaliland forces in the village of Kalshale, leaving at least two people dead. Garowe Radio claimed that ten people were killed and thirteen Somaliland soldiers were taken prisoner, adding that Puntland forces were not involved in the fighting. Somaliland and Puntland both claim ownership of the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions and militants from both sides have engaged in multiple violent disputes over the past few months. After the fighting, elders in the Sool region called on both sides to reach a ceasefire.
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a spokesman Sheikh Abdirazak Mohammed announced that Ahlu Sunna fighters will not launch any attacks on al Shabaab camps during the month of February in honor of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, but added that if attacked, Ahlu Sunna militants would defend themselves.
- Inspector General Kale Kayihura, Uganda’s top police official, warned that Kampala may be the target of a terrorist attack in the buildup to national elections later this month. In a statement to the public, Kayihura said “we have received credible information of a plan by terrorists to carry out attacks during the last days of elections.” Sunatimes reported that al Shabaab terrorists may use a truck camouflaged with Ugandan military insignias to smuggle an explosive device past police and security forces.
- Fuad Shongole, a top al Shabaab official, told a crowd gathered at the Nasrudiin Mosque in Mogadishu that anyone associated with the TFG government or AMISOM forces should be killed, adding that “anyone saying AMISOM forces have come to Somalia in a legitimate way must be slain.”
- Puntland security forces arrested dozens in the town of Boosaaso after sweeping the entire town in search of militants associated with recent attacks on Puntland officials. Shabelle Media Network reports that a police officer in the town was recently dismissed, but the Puntland administration has yet to comment on the firing. Ahmed Ali Salad, governor of the Mudug region, told Shabelle Media Network that terrorist activity in Puntland is carried out by individuals in Puntland who take orders from militants in southern Somalia.
- Al Shabaab militants in the Lower Shabelle region detained more than 150 people whom they accused of being clerics of takfir, apostasy, and responsible for turning the local population against Islam. Witnesses told Shabelle Media Network that the majority of arrests took place in Wanlaweyn, adding that all of those apprehended were former members of al Shabaab.
- An al Shabaab court in the Elbur district of the Galgudud region amputated the right hand of a teenage boy accused of theft. Sheikh Sa’id, al Shabaab’s judge in the district, presided over the amputation, which was carried out in a public square.
- Officials from Puntland and Somaliland traveled to London to attend a conference on the future of Somalia following the end of the TFG mandate in August 2011. Somaliland officials have previously refused to participate in conferences on Somali politics, but Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, Somaliland’s foreign minister, issued a statement saying that “the international community directly invited Somaliland” to the conference and also requested that the international community grant Somaliland “political recognition.”
- Somali MP Abdulle Hisri Owooley told Shabelle Media Network that the international community is continually interfering in the affairs of Somalia and downplayed recent criticism from the international community regarding the TFG parliament’s decision to extend its own mandate. MP Abdall Boos Ahmed said that it self-determination was a right of the Somali parliament, and defended the extension, telling Shabelle Media Network, “I am saying while we depend on UNDP it is better for us to rely on our almighty Allah.”