Gulf of Aden Security Review - January 24, 2012
Yemen: Saleh reportedly requests asylum in Oman, but Oman is reluctant to accept; five al Qaeda-linked militants killed north of Zinjibar; protests spread through Yemeni air force bases; military committee orders release of all detained protesters; World Bank resumes operations in Sana’a office; pro-Saleh forces shell Yemeni village; Tareq al Dhahab’s brother repudiates him and his actions; Republican Guards attack home of MP; Republican Guards storm air base and arrest 17 officers
Horn of Africa: UN Political Office for Somalia relocates to Mogadishu; al Shabaab claims responsibility for truck bombing at Ethiopian base in Beledweyne; infighting reported between al Shabaab leaders after death of al Qaeda operative; al Shabaab forcibly conscripts 200 boys
Yemen Security Brief
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh has reportedly requested asylum in Oman. Omani officials have hesitated to accept the request due to concerns that it would strain relations with any future Yemeni government.
- Five al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in fighting with the Yemeni military on January 22 and 23, north of Zinjibar in Abyan governorate. Yemeni army soldiers killed four of them during a militant assault on an army base outside Zinjibar.
- Protests demanding the resignation of air force commander Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, a half-brother of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have spread to four air force bases. In Yemen’s largest air force base, al Anad in Lahij governorate, soldiers called for him to quit; one banner read, “No to injustice, no to dictatorship, no corruption.” About 200 soldiers at an air base in Sana’a began their demonstrations on January 22 and, since being expelled by loyalists, they have been demonstrating in front of the home of Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi. Protests were also reported at bases in Taiz and Hudaydah.
- Yemen’s Military Committee ordered the release of detainees being held for protesting during 2011. The decision was made following a January 23 meeting in Sana’a in the presence of representatives from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states as well as from the United Nation Security Council’s permanent members.
- The World Bank will resume its Yemeni funding after having closed its Sana’a office due to Yemen’s unstable condition. The World Bank said that its decision had come in light of the formation of a new united Yemeni government and an improved security situation in Sana’a.
- On January 23, pro-Saleh forces renewed the shelling of residents’ houses in the village of Bani Jarmuz, north of the capital Sana’a. Two houses and a truck were set on fire due to the shelling. The Yemeni Military Committee and Vice President Hadi have demanded the units to stop firing upon the village.
- Tareq al Dhahab’s brother, Sheikh Hizam, repudiated the actions of Tareq and his followers in Rada’a. Hizam urged the tribesmen to stand as one and pledged to fight by their side against his brother. This announcement came during a meeting of sheikhs in Rada’a on January 23. Dhahab is the commander of the al Qaeda-linked militants who took control of Rada’a.
- Republican Guard forces under their commander in Taiz, Murad al Awbali, attacked the home of MP Abd al Hamid al Batra on January 23. This came after a dispute between the MP and al Awbali during a meeting, at which the MP kept referring to the “post-Saleh phase” which made al Awbali furious. After a physical altercation, al Awbali threatened, “I know your home well.”
- Men under the command of Republican Guard leader Murad al Awbali stormed Tariq Air Base in Taiz governorate on the night of January 22 to suppress soldiers’ demonstrations against the base’s commander. It was reported that 17 officers had been arrested.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- For the first time in 17 years, the United Nations’ Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) has moved to a permanent office in Mogadishu. The current envoy, Augustine Mahiga, had previously operated from offices in neighboring Kenya.
- Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a truck bombing at an Ethiopian military base in Beledweyne. The militant Islamist group claimed on Twitter that 33 Ethiopian soldiers were killed and 72 injured, but the Ethiopian military has released no information on the number of casualties. The target of the attack was reportedly the Hotel Madina, at which many senior TFG officials were staying; the driver was shot before reaching the gate of the hotel, but managed to detonate the explosives.
- There has been significant infighting within al Shabaab over the death of Bilal al Berjawi, the al Qaeda operative killed by a U.S. drone. At an emergency meeting convened late on January 22 in Lafoye district, Ali Mohamed Rage, Hassan Dahir Aweys, and Mukhtar Robow accused other al Shabaab leaders, including Ahmed Godane, of being involved in a conspiracy to kill Berjawi.
- Al Shabaab forcibly conscripted 200 boys from Afgoi into its forces on January 22. Half of the boys were sent to the front lines in Mogadishu and the other half were sent for training in Middle Shabelle region.