Gulf of Aden Security Review - May 26, 2011
Yemen: Tribesmen continued to clash with Yemeni security forces loyal to the regime in Sana'a; demonstrators march in spite of violence; at least six soldiers killed in clash with tribesmen outside of Sana'a; the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning for Yemen; UN Secretary-General urges "peaceful resolution" to political crisis; U.S. Secretary of State urges restraint; the French foreign ministry spokesman says Saleh has "direct responsibility" for escalating violence
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab desribes Bakara Market offensive; al Shabaab says AMISOM destroying Somali economy; TFG investigating al Shabaab links in Luq in the Gedo region; Ahlu Sunna militants prepare final attack on al Shabaab in Bardhere in the Gedo region; UN Secretary-General commends TFG gains, urges political progress; UNSC urges timeframe for elections, condemns political infighting
Yemen Security Brief
- Tribesmen continued to clash with Yemeni security forces in Sana'a for the fourth day. At least 109 people have been killed since May 23. Yemen’s defense ministry website reported that an explosion at a weapons depot killed 28 people. Tribesman reported that 12 Republican Guard soldiers and at least six civilians were killed in street battles. Witnesses reported that mortars struck an army unit in Sana'a's al Nahda district, killing three soldiers and wounding ten others. Tribesmen have occupied government buildings. At least one Yemeni military unit has defected to the opposition.
- Clashes between tribesmen loyal to Islamist cleric Abdul Majid al Zindani, who has been designated a terrorist by the U.S., clashed with Republican Guard troops near Sana'a International Airport. Yemeni officials closed the airport and diverted all flights to Aden International Airport in southern Yemen.
- Demonstrators marched in Sana'a today in spite of the clashes between tribesmen and loyalist security forces. Yemen's main opposition bloc, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), released a statement: "It became clear to us that the president was not serious about the cease-fire and we the mediators decided to stop mediating and place the responsibility on the president."
- President Saleh ordered the arrest of Sheikh Sadiq al Ahmar. Sadiq al Ahmar released a statement accusing Saleh of escalating the violence: "This man doesn't want anything good for Yemen...He wants to explode the situation. He is sending a message to the world: `Look if I leave, this is the kind of war that will take place.'" General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, the commander of the defected 1st Armored Brigade released a statement on the clashes, saying, "Beware of following this madman [Saleh] who is thirsty for more bloodshed.”
- Saleh's presidential guards clashed with tribesmen twenty miles northwest of Sana'a in the Arhab region. Six presidential guards were killed and 21 other people were injured.
- The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Yemen, citing civil unrest and the threat posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP): "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart while commercial transportation is available...Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests." The State Department further "ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Yemen."
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement on the escalating clashes in Sana'a. Ki-moon expressed his concern that "this confrontation might further destabilize the situation and calls for an immediate end to the fighting. The Secretary-General strongly urges all sides to continue efforts aimed at finding a peaceful resolution of Yemen's political crisis."
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged "all sides" to refrain from violence, saying, "We call on all sides, on all sides, to immediately cease the violence...We continue to support a united and stable Yemen and we continue to support the departure of President Saleh who has consistently agreed that he would be stepping down from power and then consistently reneged on those agreements."
- The French foreign ministry spokesman said that Saleh's refusal to sign the GCC's transition plan had led to the current spate of violence: "We deplore the fighting that occurred overnight which was a direct result of the current political impasse, for which President Saleh has direct responsibility due to his refusal to sign the GCC transition agreement."
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab reported that TFG and AMISOM troops "were shamed and defeated" by al Shabaab militants and "merchants at the Bakara market and the hundreds of volunteers who pushed forward to defend the market."Al Shabaab said that both sides employed hit-and-run tactics. Al Shabaab also reported that militants damaged an AMISOM or TFG tank, and killed Ahmad Dooha, a security official in the Presidential Palace.
- Al Shabaab released a statement characterizing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM campaign to retake Bakara Market as an attempt to destroy the economy. The statement accused TFG and AMISOM troops of seeking to "demolish everything the innocent civilians have thus far managed to construct." Al Shabaab reported mortar fire against “heavily populated residential areas, hospitals and other markets in Yaaqshiid, Huriwaa and Kaaran districts.”
- TFG troops launched an investigation in Luq in Gedo region. Diyad Abdi Kalil, a TFG officer, said that TFG troops arrested at least ten people in connection with al Shabaab.
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama'a fighters are preparing to push al Shabaab out of Bardhere in the Gedo region. Sheikh Isaq Hussein, an Ahlu Sunna official, said that this final operation would bring Ahlu Sunna's campaign in Gedo to a close. Hussein added that Ahlu Sunna would push into the Bay and Bakool regions.
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the AU Peace and Security Issues summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ki-moon commended the TFG for its gains against al Shabaab and urged the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) to "show real progress on key tasks such as constitution-making, political outreach, reconciliation, the provision of basic services and improvements in security."
- The UN Security Council met in Nairobi, Kenya and urged the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) to set a timeframe for electing a president. Mark Lyall Grant, the UK Ambassador to the UN described the meeting, saying, "Strong messages were given. We made it clear that the international community's support could not be assured whilst the bickering and infighting continue...The president and the speaker of the parliament must be aware there will be consequences if they are unable to reach very rapid agreement. That bickering has to stop...I made it clear that the international community as a whole expects that in that meeting there should be an agreement on the time of elections, roadmap, benchmarks and the way forward for the political settlement for Somalia."