Gulf of Aden Security Review - September 21, 2011
Yemen: Tenuous ceasefire collapsing in Sana’a; U.S. building secret drone bases in Gulf of Aden; AQAP releases video on al Mukalla prison escape; interview with AQAP member Fahd al Quso published
Horn of Africa: Gunmen kidnap aid worker from Somali refugee camp in Kenya; local al Shabaab commander surrenders; fighting in Middle Shabelle kills five people; Secretary of State Clinton appeals for al Shabaab to permit aid into Somalia; UN to sanction corrupt Somali officials
Yemen Security Brief
- A ceasefire in Sana’a has not ended the violence in the capital. Mortar shells reportedly struck the end of a street where thousands of protesters camp, causing them to seek shelter. Artillery fire and shelling was also heard in two parts of Sana’a as government security forces and opposition forces clashed. There are also reports that snipers continue to shoot from the rooftops. At least five people have been killed since the ceasefire fell into place. Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi negotiated a ceasefire in the capital with the support of international mediators.
- The Obama administration has approved building secret drone bases in Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula as part of an aggressive terror fighting strategy aimed at attacking al Qaeda affiliates based in Somalia and Yemen. The CIA is also building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula for the purpose of deploying armed drones over Yemen. The drone bases will be established in Ethiopia, an American ally in its fight against al Shabaab, and on the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. already has a base in the Republic of Seychelles, but its mission will be expanded to targeting al Qaeda affiliates in the Gulf of Aden. The Seychelles base, in the past, had primarily been conducting anti-piracy missions. Djibouti also hosts a U.S. drone base.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video on the June 21 escape of 67 al Qaeda militants from the al Mukalla prison in Hadramawt governorate in Yemen. The 54-minute and 20-second video is the first video of a series AQAP calls, “The Story of Salvation.” In the video, some of the escapees recount the details of their escape and the events leading up to the escape. The escapees say that since part of the prison was built atop an old construction site, the compressed mud made it easy for them to dig.
- Al Quds al Arabi, a London based pan-Arab newspaper, published an interview with AQAP operative Fahd al Quso, who has been indicted for his role in the USS Cole bombing. Abdul Razzaq al Jamal interviewed Quso in Shabwah governorate, only weeks after he had escaped an airstrike in Zinjibar in Abyan governorate. Quso touches on several topics including dismissing rumors that AQAP leader Nasser al Wahayshi, also known as Abu Basir, had been killed and that AQAP militants had withdrawn from Zinjibar. He also said that his pledge of allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri was delayed only because of “security conditions.” Quso went on to explain that mujahideen strategy for fighting the one enemy, “the Americans and their agents,” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, is to face them. He confirms that the group will continue to fight to free Yemen from its enemies and notes that all Muslims are “Ansar al Sharia,” or supporters of Sharia. He further notes that in Somalia, al Shabaab “strategically withdrew” from Mogadishu and had not been defeated.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Unknown gunmen kidnapped a Kenyan driver working for CARE International from Hagadera camp in the Dadaab refugee camp complex. CARE’s acting country director in Kenya, Gary McGurk, reported that the organization has suspended all programs save its water and food distribution programs. A group of 20 aid agencies published an open letter calling for the international community to put aside politics to help Somalis.
- The Somali National Security Agency held a briefing highlighting the surrender of local al Shabaab commander, Mustafa Hassan Mohamed, to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Mohamed commanded a group of al Shabaab fighters at the K13 district and surrendered after receiving amnesty.
- Fighting between al Shabaab militants and a local militia group in Miira-Taqwa, about 32 kilometers from Mahaday in Middle Shabelle region, killed at least five people and injured three others. A resident reported that al Shabaab launched the attack on the militia, which had opposed al Shabaab’s rules and taxes.
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appealed to al Shabaab to permit humanitarian aid workers access into territory under its control. She added, “And just on a personal basis, I don’t understand what possible political or ideological benefit comes from allowing women and children to starve in areas you’re responsible for.”
- The UN has sent a team of investigators to look into corruption in the Somali government. In July, the UN extended the mandate of its arms monitoring group on Somalia to include corruption and those who block the peace process. The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Dr. Augustine Mahiga, said in a statement that “The withdrawal of Al Shabaab from Mogadishu likewise give us reason for hope” for peace.