Gulf of Aden Security Review - January 25, 2012

Yemen: Islamist militants withdraw from Yemeni town; clashes kill six al Qaeda-linked militants near Zinjibar; al Houthis kidnap 12 Saudi nationals; fighting in Hajjah kills at least 15 al Houthis and four civilians; at least 46 people dead in Houthi-Salafist combat; in Hadramawt, hundreds of Yemeni airmen demonstrate against commander of the air force

Horn of Africa: U.S. Navy SEALs rescue American woman and Danish man from Somali pirates; grenade thrown into Mogadishu mosque, injuring at least 12 people; TFG vehicle hits landmine in Gedo region; AMISOM shows recently captured bases to journalists

Yemen Security Brief

  • On January 24, al Qaeda-linked militants withdrew from Rada’a, the town in al Bayda governorate that they had controlled for just over a week. The leader of the armed Islamist group, Tariq al Dhahab, agreed to leave when a tribal mediation delegation, reportedly headed by Sheikh Hashed Fadhl al Qawsi, accepted his conditions: the release of several prisoners, including his brother Nabil, as well as the formation of a people’s council that would implement shari’a law in the town. A local Rada’a leader said the militants had moved to Zahab’s home village, al Manasa, 19 miles southeast of Rada’a. The tribes said that the council would apply Yemeni law. According to one tribal leader, “the laws of Yemen are based on Islamic law and…there is no contradiction in that.” The sons of two tribal elders were given to the militant group as collateral in the deal.[1]
  • Six al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in clashes with the Yemeni military southeast of Zinjibar in southern Yemen. Ten Yemeni soldiers were wounded in the fighting.[2]
  • The al Houthis claimed to have kidnapped twelve Saudi nationals, who they accuse of crossing the border illegally, and are now negotiating the terms of their release.[3]
  • Tribal sources in Hajjah governorate reported that 15 al Houthi rebels had been killed and eight others captured, as well as four civilians killed and dozens wounded, in combat against tribesmen. Other sources report that as many as 24 al Houthis were killed in action. The fighting in Hajjah’s Kashar district took place on January 23 and 24, and came as al Houthi forces attempted to open a new front in their war against northern tribesmen.[4]
  • The Hajjah deputy chief of security has reported that at least 46 people were killed in fighting between al Houthi rebels and Salafists. A Salafist leader claimed that of the total, 40 of the dead were al Houthis and six were Salafists; more than 20 Salafists were injured. The clashes came after the al Houthis attacked a villager in a religious dispute.[5]
  • On January 24, in Hadramawt governorate, hundreds of air force officers and troops marched in a demonstration calling for the resignation of air force commander Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, half-brother of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They called for the release of their fellow men and officers who had been arrested at Daylami, Anad, and Tariq air bases for similarly demanding al Ahmar’s resignation. The men tore down portraits of President Saleh.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • U.S. Navy SEALs rescued an American woman, Jessica Buchanan, and a Danish man, Poul Hagen Thisted, both aid workers, from their captivity in the hands of Somali pirates. Commandos from SEAL Team 6 were dropped by helicopter and then advanced on the pirate base near Adado, in central Somalia. The U.S. military’s African Command (AFRICOM) reported, “All nine captors were killed during the assault.” No American soldiers were killed. The two captives were kidnapped in Galkayo in Somalia’s Galmudug region last October, and are now reportedly in neighboring Djibouti.[7]
  • An unidentified man threw a grenade into a mosque frequented by men of Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a in the Dharkenley district of Mogadishu, injuring at least 12 people as they assembled for evening prayers. No group has claimed responsibility for the January 24 attack, but it is suspected to be the work of al Shabaab. Three suspects were arrested by Somali security forces.[8]
  • A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) vehicle struck a landmine in Beled Hawo in Somalia’s southwestern Gedo region. At least five soldiers and an unreported number of civilians were injured. Ten suspects were arrested.  So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is believed to have been carried out by al Shabaab.[9]
  • African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops gave a tour of recently captured al Shabaab bases to journalists. The Mogadishu bases were wrested from al Shabaab control in an AMISOM offensive last week.[10]

[1] “Islamist Militants Quit Captured Yemeni Town,” Reuters, January 25, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/25/us-yemen-militants-idUSTRE80O0K020120125; Fawaz al-Haidari, “Qaeda Gunmen Quit Yemen Town Under Tribal Pressure,” AFP, January 25, 2012. Available: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hO4Bn9AJRksn248Ka8DUdAMf5jbw?docId=CNG.fbd256f622bb0f408ea3f47dcaf4896b.6a1
[2] Ahmed al-Haj, “Clashes in South Yemen Kill 6 Al-Qaida Militants,” AP, January 25, 2012. Available: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/clashes-south-yemen-kill-al-qaida-militants-15437969
[3] “Houthis Hold 12 Saudis Hostage in North Yemen,” Yemen Post, January 24, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=4578&MainCat=3
[4] “Hajjah: Dozens Killed in Houthi Units, and Kashr Tribes Repel Their Attempts to Control Ahim and Minadala and Restore Positions,” Mareb Press, January 24, 2012. Available: http://marebpress.net/news_details.php?sid=39904&lng=arabic
[5] “Yemen: Over 40 Killed in Sectarian Clashes,” IRIN News, January 25, 2012. Available: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94724
[6] “Air Force Men in Hadramawt Governorate Rise Up to Demand the Resignation of Muhammad Saleh al Ahmar, and Tear Down Pictures of President Saleh from their Places,” Mareb Press, January 24, 2012. Available: http://marebpress.net/news_details.php?sid=39908&lng=arabic
[7] Abdi Sheikh, “U.S. Commandos Free Two Pirate Hostages in Somalia,” Reuters, January 25, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/25/us-somalia-hostages-idUSTRE80O0I220120125; “SEALS Free U.S., Dane Hostages in Somalia,” CBS/AP, January 25, 2012. Available: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57365428/seals-free-u.s-dane-hostages-in-somalia/#comments
[8] Mohamed Odowa, “Grenade Hurled at Mogadishu Mosque,” Somalia Report, January 25, 2012. Available: http://www.somaliareport.com/index.php/post/2613/Grenade_Hurled_at_Mogadishu_Mosque
[9] “Blast Hits TFG Truck Near Kenyan Border,” Shabelle Media Network, January 25, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/article.php?id=14790
[10] AMISOM Displays Latest Strategic Military Bases Seized from al Shabab,” Shabelle Media Network, January 25, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/article.php?id=14765