Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 19, 2012

Yemen: Ansar al Sharia claims responsibility for the assassination of an American in Taiz; unidentified gunmen and security forces in Aden clash; artillery attacks kill up to 14 in Abyan governorate; Yemeni warplane bombs militant hideouts in Jaar; explosion targeting military convoy in Taiz injures one soldier; search continues for the abductors of a Swiss woman identified as Sylvia Abrahat; jihadist claims Ansar al Sharia has threatened to attack commercial vessels in Bab al Mandab Strait; Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights reports over 2000 Yemenis killed in 2011 uprising

Horn of Africa: American-born al Shabaab militant Omar Hammami releases video; at least four people killed during mortar attack on IDP camp near Villa Somalia; fighter jets bomb al Shabaab base north of Kismayo; AMISOM will formerly take command of Kenyan forces in Somalia on March 30; TFG and AMISOM troops capture territory outside of Mogadishu; Sierra Leone announces that it will send 850 troops to join AMISOM after June; al Shabaab militants raid village in Middle Shabelle; bomb hits AMISOM convoy in northern Mogadishu; al Shabaab commanders surrender to TFG forces in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

  • Two gunmen on a motorcycle killed American Joel Shrum in Taiz on March 18. Shrum worked as an English teacher at a vocational institute. Governor of Taiz Hamoud al Soufi reported that he was killed while on his way to work. Ansar al Sharia claimed responsibility for the killing through a text message sent to journalists. Part of the text read: “This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims.”[1]
  • Clashes between unidentified gunmen and security forces in Aden killed two civilians and wounded several others on March 18.[2]
  • A Yemeni official reported that up to 14 militants were killed in artillery attacks on Zinjibar, Jaar, and Bajdar in Abyan governorate on March 18. On the same day, a Yemeni warplane bombed militant hideouts in Jaar. No casualties or injuries have been reported.[3]
  • A military convoy hit a roadside bomb in Taiz on March 19. One soldier was injured in the attack.[4]
  • The search continues for Swiss woman Sylvia Abrahat who was abducted in al Hudaydah on March 16. A security official reported that three suspects were detained as part of the investigation.[5]
  • A jihadist claimed that Ansar al Sharia has threatened to attack commercial vessels in the Bab al Mandab Strait in a message released on jihadist forums on March 10. He also encourages Ansar al Sharia to collaborate with al Shabaab in this operation since doing so “will cut off many of the corrupt global blood vessels, and the arrogant powers will bleed until they lack blood if not die completely.”[6]
  • On March 18, Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights reported that more than 2,000 people were killed and 22,000 wounded over a year of political turmoil. The statement added that the figures included the deaths of 120 children, unarmed protesters, and defected soldiers.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansour al Amriki, an American al Shabaab militant, uploaded a video onto YouTube on March 16. He stated in the video, “I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by the Shabaab al-Mujahideen movement due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the Shariah and matters of the strategy.“ Al Shabaab denied that it presents such a threat. In a statement posted on jihadist forums on March 17, the group explained that it was “surprised” by Hammami’s video, and furthermore that “everything stated in this video it is not [sic] true at all, and that the life of the brother is not threatened by the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement.” Al Shabaab also commented on the video on its Twitter feed, saying that was it unsure of Hammami’s motivations in making the video and assuring that Hammami “is not endangered by the Mujahideen & our brother still enjoys all the privileges of brotherhood.” There has been at least one report, however, that al Shabaab militants stormed his home in Marka and seized him on March 19.[8]
  • A mortar hit an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Mogadishu overnight, killing at least four civilians. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a mortar attack on its Twitter feed, but said that it had hit Villa Somalia, the presidential palace, which is very close to the camp: “It’s the second attack on the Presidential Palace in a week, demonstrating the sheer impotence that is surrounding the weak apostate regime.”[9]
  • Jets bombed an al Shabaab base near Daytubako, some 85 miles north of Kismayo on March 17. It is not yet known whose jets they were: a Somali source indicated that they were Kenyan, but this has not been confirmed. The number of casualties in the raid is not known.[10]
  • Colonel Cyrus Oguna, who is in charge of Kenyan forces in Somalia, announced on March 17 that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) will officially take command of Kenyan troops on March 30.[11]
  • AMISOM announced that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops, backed by AMISOM forces, captured more territory outside of Mogadishu on March 16. They were able to wrest Suuqa Holaha market, Keydsaney Hospital, the village of Waxara-Adde, and Jetemirika hill, which al Shabaab had previously used as a perch from which to fire mortars at IDP camps.[12] 
  • Eyewitnesses reported that unknown assailants threw grenades at TFG forces in Mogadishu’s Dharkenley district. Two suspects were arrested in connection to the March 17 attack.[13]
  • The government of Sierra Leone announced on March 17 that 850 of its soldiers would deploy to Somalia to join AMISOM “any time after June.”[14 
  • Al Shabaab militants raided Bodale village in Middle Shabelle region on March 17. At least one villager was killed and another wounded.[15]
  • A roadside bomb hit an AMISOM convoy while it was on its way to a base in Shibis, a neighborhood in northern Mogadishu. The number of casualties due to the attack is unknown.[16]
  • Two al Shabaab commanders, Hudeyfa Mohamed Hassan and Jama’, surrendered to TFG forces in Mogadishu.[17]          

[1] Mohammed Ghobari, “5-Militants Kill American Teacher in Yemen,” Reuters, March 18, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/18/yemen-idUSL6E8EI02N20120318
“In Yemen, U.S. Teacher Is Shot Dead by Two Men,” New York Times, March 18, 2012. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/world/middleeast/american-teacher-shot-dead-in-yemen.html?_r=1
[2] Mohammed Ghobari, “5-Militants Kill American Teacher in Yemen,” Reuters, March 18, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/18/yemen-idUSL6E8EI02N20120318
[3] Mohammed Ghobari, “5-Militants Kill American Teacher in Yemen,” Reuters, March 18, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/18/yemen-idUSL6E8EI02N20120318
[4] “A Soldier Is Injured by an Explosion Carried out on a Military Convoy by Unknown Gunmen in Taiz,” March 19, 2012. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/index.php?page=news&article-section=1&news_id=29918
[6] “Jihadist Suggests Ansar al-Shariah Threaten Ships in Bab el-Mandeb,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 16, 2012. Available at SITE.
[7] Ahmed al Haj, “Yemen Says More Than 2000 Killed in Uprising,” AP, March 18, 2012. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/yemen-says-more-than-2000-killed-in-uprising/2012/03/18/gIQAGOtcLS_story.html
[8] “Hammami Says Life May Be Endangered by the Shabaab,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 16, 2012. Available at SITE.
“Shabaab Denies Posing Danger to Hammami’s Life,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 17, 2012. Available at SITE.
Tweet by HSM Press Office, March 17, 2012. Available:
Tweet by HSM Press Office, March 17, 2012. Available: http://twitter.com/#!/HSMPress/status/181029361552588800
Tweet by HSM Press Office, March 17, 2012. Available: http://twitter.com/#!/HSMPress/status/181029781574385664
“Al-Shabab Militants Arrest a US-Born Jihadist in Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, March 19, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/article.php?id=16336
[9] “Mortars in Somalia Capital Kill 4 from 1 Family; al-Shabab Appears to Claim Responsibility,” AP, March 19, 2012. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/mortars-in-somalia-capital-kill-4-from-1-family-al-shabab-appears-to-claim-responsibility/2012/03/19/gIQADiUUMS_story.html
Tweet by HSM Press Office, March 19, 2012. Available: http://twitter.com/#!/HSMPress/status/181686180012765187
Tweet by HSM Press Office, March 19, 2012. Available: http://twitter.com/#!/HSMPress/status/181687211509559297
“Somali Shebab Fighters Kill Six in Mogadishu Attack,” AFP, March 19, 2012. Available: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jLe__A6svgtQIbJ1juoK0fQwkifA?docId=CNG.8a3333255c5042ecb70e6df00fefc6ea.61
[10] Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar, “Jets Bomb al Shabaab Base in Southern Somalia,” Reuters, March 17, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/17/us-somalia-conflict-idUSBRE82G0DE20120317
[11] Tom Odula, “AU Somalia Force to Take Command of Kenyan Troops,” AP, March 17, 2012. Available: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/au-somalia-force-command-kenyan-troops-15943595#.T2c6XcW0zZc
[12] “AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Forces Capture News Areas Outside Mogadishu City,” AMISOM Force HQ, March 16, 2012. Available: http://amisom-au.org/2012/03/au-mission-in-somalia-amisom-forces-capture-new-areas-outside-mogadishu-city/
[13] Grenade Attack hits Somali Solders in Mogadishu,” Shabelle Media Network, March 18, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/article.php?id=16297
[14] Kemo Cham, “S. Leone Army to Deploy 850 Troops to Somalia,” Daily Monitor, March 19, 2012. Available: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/World/-/688340/1368796/-/1240h6v/-/
[15] “Militants’ Attack Kills a Villager in Bodale, Jowhar District,” Radio Bar-Kulan, March 18, 2012. Available: http://www.bar-kulan.com/2012/03/18/militants%E2%80%99-attack-kills-a-villager-in-bodale-jowhar-district/
“Three Die in Al-Shabaab Conflict with Farmers,” Shabelle Media Network, March 17, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/article.php?id=16272
[16] “Mogadishu Bomb Hits AU Peacekeepers,” Shabelle Media Network, March 18, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/article.php?id=16279
[17] “Al Shabaab Commanders Surrender to the Somali Government,” SONNA, March 18, 2012. Available: http://somaliamediamonitoring.org/?p=1133