Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 3, 2011
Yemen: Saleh to take steps to leave office within year; Sana’a rallies continue; security forces arrest dozens of Southern Movement supporters in Aden; clashes at protests in Hudaydah governorate leave at least twenty people injured; two people killed in skirmishes between anti-government demonstrators and security forces in Lahij governorate; security forces placed on high alert; Saleh apologizes for claims that the U.S. and Israel are behind unrest; tribal leader claims AQAP a “creation”; Saleh appoints five new governors; UK boosts aid to Yemen; U.S. Embassy in Sana’a expresses concern about crackdown on journalists; White House spokesman dismisses fears over Zindani statements
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab threatens Burundi; TFG soldiers using Kenyan town as launch pad for attack; Ahlu Sunna forces in Galgudud return from training; TFG police officers finish training in Kenya; TFG general says government needs to crackdown on sale of TFG arms to al Shabaab; TFG closes Mogadishu-based radio station; Secretary Clinton calls for action against pirates; Kenyan treasury increases budget for security; TFG minister condemns al Shabaab’s refusal to recognize human rights
Yemen Security Brief
- A government official confirmed that President Saleh and opposition leaders have found “common ground” in the opposition’s five point plan. The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) issued a statement saying that “The president agreed to determine a series of steps that he will take to leave power, with no inheritance, during a period of time that will not extend beyond this year.” It is unclear whether the protestors will accept the opposition’s plan. The youth, say protestors, “have nothing to do with the agreements reached in closed rooms.”
- Tens of thousands of demonstrators remain outside Sana’a University and thousands of government supporters continue to rally in Tahrir Square. One man in Tahrir Square told the Yemen Times that his employer had forced him to attend a pro-Saleh demonstration and he feared losing his job if he if he went to an opposition rally. The Yemen Times also reported that a growing number of women are participating in the protest at Sana’a University.
- The Yemen Post reported that security forces arrested “dozens” of Southern Movement activists in Aden.
- Anti- and pro-government demonstrators clashed in Hudaydah governorate, leaving at least twenty people injured.
- At least two people were killed in Lahij governorate when anti-government protestors attacked security forces stationed in Marekh Naji district of the town of Saleh. Eyewitnesses reported that at least two military vehicles were damaged in the fighting.
- SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, reported that the Interior Ministry has ordered security forces in Aden, Abyan, Lahij, Hadramawt and Ma’rib governorates to exercise increased precaution and be on the lookout for any terrorist activity.
- President Saleh telephoned U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan and offered his “regret for misunderstandings related to his public remarks that Israel and the U.S. have engaged in destabilizing activities in Arab countries.” Saleh affirmed that he is “firmly committed to meaningful political reform,” and Brennan “expressed appreciation for the call and said that any comments that seek to attribute blame for recent developments in the region are unhelpful, as they ignore the legitimate aspirations of people in the Arab world.”
- Sheikh Hameed al Ahmar, a leader of the Hashid tribe and Chief of the National Alliance Council, spoke to the Yemen Times and explained that the goal of the opposition is to completely change the regime in Yemen, saying “there are no government institutions in Yemen; it is just Ali [President Saleh] and his family.” Ahmar also discussed the violence in the south of Yemen, claiming that “the regime is trying to replace calls in the south for revolution with calls for secession.” Ahmar claimed that “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a creation of this regime. They will vanish once the regime falls.”
- President Saleh’s personal website reported that new governors have been appointed in Hadramawt, Aden, Lahij, Hudaydah and Jawf governorates.
- Joanna Reid, head of the UK Department for International Development in Yemen announced that the UK will increase its aid to Yemen from £46.7 million annually to £90 million by 2015. The aid will increase education and job opportunities for Yemeni youths. Reid also encouraged reform in Yemen, saying, “We also continue to encourage political reform in Yemen and believe that holding free, fair and multi-party parliamentary elections are an important part of that reform.”
- The U.S. Embassy in Yemen issued a statement expressing concern about the Yemeni government’s crackdown on the press, stating that they had “watched with concern recent infringements of press freedom in Yemen.” The statement concluded with a call for the Yemeni government to “demonstrate its respect for the role of independent media as stipulated by Yemen’s constitution and laws by taking immediate, concrete steps to ensure that the media can operate in Yemen freely, securely, and without government interference.”
- White House press secretary Jay Carney commented on recent statements from Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani, who is listed by the U.S. as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his ties to al Qaeda, and said that although Zindani called for the creation of an Islamic state, “That one man has called for the kind of change that he is calling for is not necessarily reflective of the change that Yemenis more broadly are demanding.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab leader Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubair released an audio statement threatening the people of Burundi and Burundian soldiers operating within Somalia. In the tape, Zubair said “This message is to inform the Burundians that their forces in Somalia don’t know the facts exist in this country. You know that many forces from the world and from Ethiopia have failed to do anything in Somalia and dragging of AU soldiers in Mogadishu is a clear sign for their failure.” Al Shabaab militants have repeatedly displayed the dead bodies of AMISOM soldiers in public over the past weeks and currently hold at least one Burundian soldier captive.
- The Nairobi Star reported that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers, including former warlord and TFG MP Bare Hirale, have been using the Kenyan town of Mandera as a launch pad for attacks on al Shabaab forces in Somalia. The Nairobi Star claimed to have received video evidence of the TFG soldiers traveling through Mandera in a Land Rover loaded with mortar shells.
- Nearly 1,000 Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a fighters have returned from four months of training in Ethiopia and have taken up positions in the Balanbal and Dhusamareb districts of the Galgudud region. Ethiopian military officials have met with Ahlu Sunna leaders and a new offensive against al Shabaab militants in the area is expected to occur soon. Mohammed Ahmed Shuriye, commander of Ahlu Sunna forces in the Galgudud region, said that his men had arrested two people suspected of being involved in a recent clan dispute that left two people dead and that tribal elders were in the process of negotiating reconciliation.
- 194 TFG police officers graduated from a three month training course at the Kenya Wildlife Training School. Wafula Wamunyinyi, Deputy Special Representative of AMISOM, spoke at the ceremony and thanked both the Kenyan and Italian governments for supporting the TFG police force.
- Al Shabaab issued six communiqués on jihadist forums through its media arm, the al Kata'ib Foundation for Media Production, between February 26 and 28. The first statement announced that the administration of Afgoi in the Lower Shabelle region had undertaken a campaign to clean up trash heaps in the city. The second and third releases described fighting between al Shabaab militants and Burundian soldiers near Jalle Siad College in Mogadishu. The fourth statement claimed that al Shabaab fighters defeated Ahlu Sunna militias in fighting near Dhusamareb and burned an Ahlu Sunna vehicle. The fifth communiqué claimed that al Shabaab fighters killed six Ugandan soldiers while repulsing an AMISOM attack near Florence intersection in Mogadishu. The final release stated that al Shabaab gunmen defeated TFG and Ethiopian soldiers near Beled Hawo and captured two military vehicles and publicly displayed the bodies of dead AMISOM and TFG soldiers.
- TFG General Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad told Shabelle Media Network that the TFG needs to crackdown on the illegal sale of TFG weapons to al Shabaab militants. TFG police arrested five suspected arms dealers operating in Mogadishu on March 2.
- Mareeg Online reported that the TFG closed the Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Kulmiye after the station interviewed four former members of al Shabaab who complained that the TFG had not fulfilled its promises to provide welfare to extremists who surrender. Officials from Radio Kulmiye said that they expect to return to the air soon.
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee and said that “we need to do more, and make it clear that the entire would better get behind what we do and get this scourge resolved.” Clinton blamed shippers for paying increasingly exorbitant ransoms to pirates and suggested that further action be taken against ports used as pirate safe-havens.
- Kenyan Treasury Secretary Joseph Kinyua said that recent threats from al Shabaab have forced the government to revise the national budget to include a greater emphasis on security and counterterrorism. Kenyan Defense Minister Yusuf Haji told the Nairobi Star that border clashes had been exaggerated by the media and said that “We have strengthened our security at the border and our soldiers are on high alert to avert any trouble that may be caused by those militias. Our people should feel secure and continue living as they used to.”
- TFG Information Minister Abdulkareem Jama responded to al Shabaab official Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur’s announcement that al Shabaab fighters do not recognize human rights, saying “They have now openly declared that they do not care about the rights of the people. The government will redouble its efforts to clear Somalia of this menace.”