Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 31, 2011
Yemen: Soldiers loyal to defected commander become mutinous under newly appointed commander; government releases 15 southern separatists; JMP delivers key demands to Saleh; opposition bloc accuses Saleh of colluding with AQAP; AQAP declared an Islamic emirate in Abyan; protestors gathered in the tens of thousands in Sana’a to protest Saleh’s continued rule
Horn of Africa: U.S. rules out using ground forces to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden; UN special envoy to Somalia calls for the Somali government to move out of transitional period; Kenyan security forces repel al Shabaab attempt to raid a Kenyan police station; al Shabaab announced that its gunmen had damaged an AMISOM armored vehicle and tank during a nine hour clash on March 29; al Shabaab wounds a Somali soldier with a remote-controlled bomb; a young Canadian man was arrested in Toronto’s airport for planning to join al Shabaab; Somali army ready to launch major anti-terrorist campaign; Somali government frees two previously detained journalists; Ahlu Sunna elects new administration; al Shabaab storms villages outside Mogadishu, detaining civilians for Islamic crimes
Yemen Security Brief
- Soldiers loyal to commander Abdul al Kadhi, the military commander based in Yemen’s southern governorate of Lahij who resigned his commission in solidarity with the youth protest movement, became mutinous under their newly appointed commanding officer. The new commander confiscated the soldiers’ weapons to avoid an outright mutiny; in response, officers within the regiments, with the full support of many of the enlisted, organized a protest in front of the base. An officer within the base added that the protesting soldiers “threatened to escalate protest in case there is no response to their demands.”
- Yemen released 15 southern separatists from prisons in Aden, Dhaleh, Lahij, Abyan, Hadramawt, Sa’ada, al Jawf, Shabwah, and Ma’rib. Yemeni security officials feared that the prisons would be stormed by angry demonstrators: “Decision for their release came for fear that residents might storm jails to free their kinsmen, especially after most of the police units were pulled out due to increasing pro-reform protest movements,” an official said. The Yemen Times reports that the central government’s decision to withdraw security forces to Sana’a previously allowed al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), the al Houthis, and other anti-government forces to effectively control six of Yemen’s 18 governorates.
- Yemen’s opposition bloc, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), accused President Ali Abdullah Saleh of colluding with AQAP. JMP spokesperson Mohammed al Sabri argued that by diverting security forces to contain the anti-government protests, Saleh had effectively delivered the southern governorate of Abyan into AQAP hands.
- Yemen’s opposition bloc delivered key demands to President Saleh. Thiyazan al Hakimi and Abdullah Nsherm represented the bloc. The list included Saleh stepping down from office; banning Saleh’s family from military and political involvement; abolishing of the existing constitution; dissolving the parliament and Shura Council; disbanding the state security, national intelligence, and national defense agencies in favor an agency within the Interior Ministry responsible only for dealing with foreign threats.
- AQAP militants declared Yemen’s southern governorate of Abyan an "Islamic emirate." The announcement, made over the internet, added, “From now on, women who go out to the markets need to be accompanied by a relative, who carry a proof by identity cards, or passports.” Note: This statement was not released through AQAP's media arm, al Malahem Foundation.
- Tribal chiefs, clerics, activists, youths, and other Yemenis have headed into the capital to show support for President Saleh, according to the state news agency. The youth have also called for supporters to turn out in the streets, but have called off a march for fear of violence. Both sides have planned major rallies in the capital tomorrow. Anti-government demonstrators gathered in the tens of thousands in Sana’a to protest the Saleh’s continued rule and the 82 protesters killed by government forces so far, 52 of which were victim to government snipers on March 18. Sana’a rung with chants of “the people want the butcher to face trial.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- The U.S. ruled out using ground forces to combat piracy in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. Instead, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said America will pursue military solutions that do not put American lives at risk alongside non-military solutions such as freezing financial assets, closely tracking pirates’ movements, as well as developing more effective judicial means to prosecute pirates in court. “We have not endorsed to use any land base and ground forces to combat the pirates,” said Shapiro, adding that “it’s better to work with security [sic] forces of Somalia.”
- Augustine Mahiga, the UN Special Representative to Somalia, held talks with top Somali officials to discuss the Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) move to self-extend its institutions’ mandate by another year. Mahiga called for Somali leaders to move the Somali central government out of a transitional government into an official one.
- Kenyan security officials repelled an al Shabaab attempt to raid a Kenyan police station in Liboi, a border-town between Somalia and Kenya. In a nighttime assault that lasted thirty minutes, al Shabaab gunmen fired two mortar rounds at the police station before attempting to storm the station to steal the arms and ammunition within. Security officials defended the station before chasing the al Shabaab militants across the border into Somalia.
- Al Shabaab militants used a remote-controlled improvised explosive device, hidden along the road, to target a police station in Luq, a town close to the Somali, Kenyan, and Ethiopian border. One soldier was killed in the explosion. This is the second attack on a police station on March 30. “We are worried,” said interviewed Somalis, “They have attacked police officers twice since Monday.”
- Al Shabaab released a communiqué on jihadist forums describing an AMISOM attack on an al Shabaab base near the old Postal Service Ministry that the group claims to have successfully repelled. Al Shabaab also released a French translation of the speech to the people of Burundi by Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, an al Shabaab senior leader, originally released on March 2.
- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Toronto police arrested Mohamed Hersi, a 25-year-old Toronto resident, at Toronto’s Pearson Airport for attempting to travel to Somalia to join and to give aid to al Shabaab. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned that Hersi’s story is a common one: numerous young Canadian men leave for Somalia to train with al Shabaab and return to Canada to spread the techniques and ideology they learn abroad. “These people return to Canada as radicals and pass on their ideology to others,” said an official, “they are also involved in recruiting and doing the work of the group here.”
- Senior Somali military officials declared that Somali’s army has finished preparations for a major offensive into the southern Jubba regions of Somalia and is ready to launch a major offensive against al Shabaab. “Preparations have ended,” said General Abdi Mahdi, the commander in charge of Somalia’s military operations in the Jubba regions, “and we will soon liberate the Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba regions south of the country.” The general is confident that this major push will end al Shabaab’s operations in the Jubba regions, adding that international aid organizations should ready themselves to restart relief operations in Somalia, saying that “relief organizations will soon get access for operating in the regions they were previously banned from.”
- The Somali government released Radio Shabelle’s editor Abdi Mohamed Ismael and director Abdirashid Omar Qase after detaining them for reporting inaccuracies when covering clashes between the government and al Shabaab. “I would like to notify you,” reads the Shabelle Media Network Press Release, “that the two senior journalists from Radio Shabelle in Mogadishu, Somalia, who had been under arrest by the Transitional Federal Government, were unconditionally released this morning.”
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a elected a new administration on March 30. Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Hassan (Guureeye), the chairman of the executive committee, noted that there are no internal disagreements within the group. A rift had been reported. In Luq in Gedo region, Ahlu Sunna fighters detained ten suspected members of al Shabaab connected with recent improvised explosive device attacks.
- Al Shabaab militants poured into villages 24 kilometers outside Mogadishu in Elasha Biyaha and Lafole. The Islamists detained at least 20 people, some of them women, whom they accused of committing different crimes against Islam.