Gulf of Aden Security Review - October 19, 2009
Yemen: 44 al-Houthi rebels killed in air strikes near Saudi border; three Lebanese reportedly killed in northern Yemen; six Yemenis arrested by Saudi authorities in connection to al-Qaeda; twelve al-Houthi rebels sentenced in Yemen; President Saleh accuses al-Houthi rebels of receiving Iranian support
Horn of Africa: Ethiopian troops reported to have withdrawn from key town in western Somalia; Somalis in Kenya say al-Shabaab recruits from Somali youth there; leader of Ogaden National Liberation Front surrenders to Ethiopian authorities leading to confiscation of explosives; al-Shabaab bans international aid agencies from regions it controls; Somali Prime Minister expected to reorganize Cabinet shortly
Yemen Security Brief
- A senior government official reported that Yemeni warplanes killed over 44 al-Houthi rebels near the Saudi border. Rebels, however, claim that they were civilian casualties. In a series of air strikes launched by the government, an abandoned hospital in the northern town of Razeh was hit. The government claims that it was a rebel hideout, while the rebels counter that it was still an active hospital. Medicins Sans Frontieres, an international aid group, said that the hospital was fully functioning when it left on Thursday.
- Military sources report that three Lebanese skilled in explosives were killed in air strikes on al-Houthi positions in al-Malahaid, which is west of Sa’ada. These strikes were part of the attack that hit Razeh, where the conflict is escalating. A few days ago, al-Houthi rebels ambushed Colonel Ahmed al-Shaibani outside of Razeh, killing him and two others.
- Saudi authorities arrested six Yemenis connected to the two known al-Qaeda militants, Yousef al-Shehri and Raed al-Harbi, who were killed in a shoot-out in southern Saudi Arabia last week. The Saudi Interior Ministry reported that the men had smuggled in from Yemen RDX explosives, Kalashnikov assault rifles, grenades, pistols, and two suicide vests in the car, in addition to the vests worn by al-Shehri and al-Harbi, which indicates the planning of a major attack.
- Two al-Houthi rebels received the death-sentence on Saturday and ten others received jail-time for “killing security personnel in Bani Huseish in Sana’a last year.” This was the third group of al-Houthi rebels to be charged. In the same court, the trial of seven al-Qaeda suspects was delayed a week so that the defendants could find a lawyer.
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh accused the Shiite al-Houthi rebels of accepting funding from “certain Iranian dignatories,” though he made clear that he was not accusing the government and cited intelligence gleaned from confiscated documents. Saleh also noted that the al-Houthi rebels’ training appears to be similar to that of Lebanese-based Hezbollah, and that there are unconfirmed reports of Lebanese trainers in rebel strongholds. A meeting between Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and President Saleh in Yemen has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Some Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from their bases within Somalia, located west of Beledweyne in the Hiraan region. Local sources report that the troops drove armored trucks towards military bases within Ethiopia. The troops had pressed deeper into Somalia last week to establish military checkpoints. Last week, they arrested and questioned over fifteen men, though most were later released.
- Somalis who fled to Kenya say that al-Shabaab representatives have targeted Somali youth in the capital, Nairobi, and surrounding towns. The boys, whose ages range from fourteen to seventeen, have either been taken or convinced to take part in the jihad against the Somalia government.
- A top leader within the Ogaden National Liberation Front surrendered to Ethiopian officials Saturday, leading to the seizure of 37 quintals of chemicals used to produce explosives. The state’s official news agency reported that the leader, Abdi Mohammed Awhasen, turned himself in after refusing to carry out an order issued jointly by Eritrea’s Oromo Liberation Front and Somalia’s al-Shabaab.
- The al-Shabaab-led administration in the Lower Juba region in southern Somalia announced a ban on aid agencies from operating in regions under al-Shabaab’s control. “We will not accept these agencies to operate in these region, we want our people to work for their life rather than depending on foreign aid,” said Sheikh Ya’qub, the al-Shabaab spokesman in Kismayo. Sheikh Ya’qub said that UN agencies work against Islamist groups and against the establishment of an Islamic state.
- Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake, the Somali Prime Minister, is expected to reorganize his Cabinet shortly. Government sources speak of pressure to appoint a new Cabinet with merit-based criteria rather than the current criteria meant to appease various clans. The new Cabinet will be smaller than the previous, with only 23 ministers instead of 39.