Gulf of Aden Security Review - October 17, 2011
Yemen: Violence escalates in Yemen; U.S. drone strike kills nine AQAP militants in Shabwah governorate; al Qaeda attacks gas pipeline; tribesmen capture al Qaeda-linked militants in Zinjibar; Ansar al Sharia video released
Horn of Africa: Kenyan forces pursue al Shabaab into Somalia; TFG seizes Qoqani and Afmadow; two mines explode in Mogadishu injuring four people; al Shabaab releases 12 people from prison in Baidoa; measles vaccinations banned by al Shabaab in Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab burns tobacco farms; al Shabaab arrests elders in Elbur; al Shabaab takes 150 trucks from populace
Yemen Security Brief
- Fighting in Sana’a continued into a third day. There have been ongoing clashes between pro-government troops and defected tribesmen, loyal to Hashid tribal confederation leader Sheikh Sadiq al Ahmar, in al Hasaba district and between pro-government troops and defected First Armored Division troops along al Zubayri Street in Sana’a. Witnesses report that three people died when a shell landed near a makeshift hospital near Tagheer (Change) Square in Sana’a as well. Government snipers reportedly opened fire at thousands of protesters from the rooftops. The First Armored Division released a statement saying that a major and nine of its troops were killed “by treacherous sniping and shelling of the positions of the division.” In Taiz, medical officials reported that one woman was killed by government troops and seven others were injured. Government troops killed at least 12 people and injured hundreds in a similar march on October 15. Also, fighting between pro-government troops and opposition tribesmen killed 17 other people in al Hasaba district of Sana’a.
- A U.S. drone strike killed nine al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Azzan in Shabwah governorate late on October 14. The attack killed Egyptian-born Ibrahim al Banna, whom Yemen’s Defense Ministry called AQAP’s media chief. Also killed in the strike were the son of Anwar al Awlaki, Abdul Rahman al Awlaki and the brother of Fahd al Quso, Farhan al Quso. Local officials reported that the strike hit a house where the militants had been holding a meeting but had already left when the strike hit. The vehicles they were travelling in were hit and subsequently destroyed.
- Al Qaeda-linked militants attacked a major gas pipeline in two places between Ma’rib and Belhaf early on October 15. The pipeline links the gas fields in Ma’rib to a Total Liquefied Gas Plant (LNG) in Belhaf in Shabwah governorate. The attack came in retaliation for a strike against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on October 14, according to local officials. The attacks forced Total to temporarily hault production and evacuate its foreign staff to Djibouti.
- Tribal sources reported that tribesmen ambushed at least five al Qaeda-linked militants as they were transporting military equipment in Zinjibar in Abyan governorate. Fighting that followed the ambush reportedly killed four militants and one tribesman. Yemeni security forces reportedly captured three suspected al Qaeda-linked militants.
- A video called, “Are the Two Groups Equal,” was produced by al Raya Media Productions, an alleged media outlet of the al Qaeda-linked militant group, Ansar al Sharia, and posted on jihadist forums on October 14. The video features images of martyrs, tribal fighters being killed in a suicide bombing in Abyan governorate, and excerpts from speeches made by al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Additionally, Ansar al Sharia threatened death to tribes who are working alongside the Yemeni government.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- According to Kenyan security officials, several hundred Kenyan troops, backed by armored trucks, tanks, and helicopters, have crossed the border into Somalia near the town of Dhobley with the stated intention of creating a 100 km buffer zone between the Kenyan border and al Shabaab militants. This follows a series of kidnappings over the last month of people being kidnapped on Kenyan soil by gunmen suspected to be from Somalia. An unnamed Kenyan official said that the troops were “going all the way to Kismayo.” Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Masika Wetangula said that the Kenyan military entered Somalia at the request of the Somali government but the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has not confirmed that any Kenyan troops are in the country. Sheikh Hassan Turki a senior al Shabaab official, has said that the group will repel the Kenyan military. "Kenya violated the territorial rights of Somalia by entering our holy land, but I assure you that they will return disappointed, God willing . . . mujahideen fighters will force them to test the pain of the bullets." Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage threatened attacks in Kenya similar to the July 2010 Kampala bombings in Uganda. Shortly after the invasion began, a Kenyan military helicopter crashed, killing five military personnel. Kenyan authorities say the crash did not occur due to enemy fire.
- TFG forces, backed by Ras Kamboni militia fighters, seized Qoqani from al Shabaab militants on October 15. The attack followed reports of bombings by unidentified aircraft. A TFG security official Abdurrahman Mohamed said “The government forces took control of Qoqani after heavy shelling on the positions of the Shabaab and their affiliates.” Shortly afterwards, al Shabaab withdrew from Afmadow leaving the town uncontested for TFG forces.
- Two mines exploded at the wall of a base used by Burundian troops; part of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces. The blasts wounded three TFG soldiers and a civilian woman. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Al Shabaab has released 12 people from prison in Baidoa. They were arrested for refusing to return to their homes following an al Shabaab decision to send refugees from camps back to famine-struck areas. The 12 were in custody for a week as local elders and religious leaders lobbied for their release.
- Citing religious reasons, al Shabaab has banned the UN Children Agency from performing measles vaccinations on children. Al Shabaab said that the UN’s campaign was aimed at fighting Muslim population growth saying that the vaccine can cause infertility.
- Al Shabaab burned four farms it claimed were growing tobacco in Burdubo in the Gedo region. The farmers deny that they were growing tobacco, saying that the crops burnt were maize and other food staples.
- Al Shabaab arrested several elders they said were plotting against the group in Elbur in Galgudud region. The groups accused the elders of meeting with pro-government militia group Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a to combat al Shabaab in the area.
- Al Shabaab militants confiscated 150 trucks from the local populace to transport refugees from the KM50 camp under its control back to famine-hit areas where the refugees lived.