Gulf of Aden Security Review - September 23, 2013

Yemen: AQAP kills air force colonel in Sana’a; gunmen attack soldiers in Lahij; decapitated bodies of soldiers found in Hadramawt; security forces disarm IED targeting President Hadi; AQAP clashes with tribesmen in Ma’rib; security forces and tribesmen clash in Ma’rib; Yemeni minister of defense denies attempted attack in Belhaf, Shabwah; intelligence officer survives attack in Hadramawt; grenade explodes in market in Taiz; American journalist kidnapped in Sana’a

Horn of Africa: Ten to fifteen al Shabaab militants attack and control Nairobi mall; Kenyan authorities say security forces control all mall floors; al Shabaab claims three Nairobi attackers are American; al Shabaab spokesperson threatens Kenya to withdraw from Somalia; Twitter suspends al Shabaab again; Kenya closes borders with Somalia; Uganda increases security in capital and border towns; gunmen assassinate Somali MP; IED targets SNA; grenade attack in Mogadishu; Somali forces arrest Omar Hammami’s former aid; Puntland forces make mass arrest

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants killed an air force colonel in Sana’a on September 23.[i]
  • Unidentified gunmen attacked a military pickup truck in al Kirsh, Lahij governorate. Officials did not release how many soldiers were injured.[ii]
  • Security forces found the bodies of six soldiers in ‘Abr, Hadramawt governorate on September 23. The bodies were decapitated. Sources believed the soldiers AQAP or drug traffickers were behind the attack.[iii]
  • Security forces found and disarmed an improvised explosive device (IED) planted near President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s residence in Khor Maksar, Aden governorate on September 22.[iv]
  • AQAP clashed with tribesmen from the Rashid al Munif tribe in Wadi Abeidah, Ma’rib governorate on September 22. The clash killed four tribesmen and five militants and wounded six others.[v]
  • Military and police forces reportedly shot at a car carrying a tribal sheikh at a checkpoint in Ma’rib governorate on September 22. The clash killed the sheikh’s son and wounded three of his companions. Sources said the situation was tense and that mediators were trying to defuse the situation but more tribal gunmen have been arriving.[vi]
  • The Yemeni minister of defense, Muhammad Nasser Ahmad, denied in a statement on September 22 that terrorists had targeted the Belhaf gas facilities on September 20. He also said that security forces pursued the AQAP militants responsible for the September 20 attacks in Shabwah, killing five of them and wounding ten.[vii]
  • A political security officer survived an assassination attempt in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate on September 22. He noticed an IED planted in his car and explosives experts were able to diffuse it without incident.[viii]
  • A grenade exploded in a fish market in Salh, Taiz governorate on September 21. The blast killed one person and wounded three. Sources did not know who was responsible for the attack.[ix]
  • The Yemen Post reported on September 21 that American journalist Luke Somers was kidnapped in Sana’a. Sources said he was missing for several days.[x]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Ten to fifteen Al Shabaab militants attacked and took control of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on September 21. The confirmed death toll is 62 with over 175 injured, including five wounded Americans, at 2100 Nairobi time on September 23. Respective governments confirmed that four Britons, a Canadian diplomat and a civilian, and two French citizens were killed. Al Shabaab remained in the mall with hostages as of 2100 Nairobi time on September 23.[xi]
  • A senior Kenyan police officer said security forces control “all floors” and were “closing in” on the militants after conducting a raid, on September 23. A fire blazed inside the mall during the raid, which Kenyan officials claimed was a distraction by the militants. Kenyan soldiers have killed three al Shabaab militants as of 2100 on September 23.[xii]
  • Al Shabaab released the names of nine militants involved in the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall via twitter on September 23. Al Shabaab listed three militants from American as well as one from Kenya, Canada, Finland, and the UK. Respective countries have yet to confirm the report.[xiii]
  • Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage (Ali Dhere) stated “We are saying to the Kenyans, leave our country… And if they refuse to leave our country then we will wage real war,” during an interview regarding the weekend Nairobi mall attack.[xiv]
  • Twitter suspended al Shabaab’s twitter account, @HSMPress, after the group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Nairobi Westgate Mall using the account, on September 22, 2013. The alternate account @HSMPress1 is also suspended. [xv]
  • Kenya closed border crossing points along the 1,200 km border with Somalia on September 22. A spokesperson stated the entire border is on high alert and Rapid Deployment Units have been dispatched along the border. Security forces have also been put on high alert in Nairobi and Mombasa.[xvi]
  • Ugandan Police increased security throughout the capital Kampala and in the Malaba and Busia towns that border Kenya following the attack in Nairobi, on September 23. Ugandan troops constitute the largest contingent of the AMISOM force fighting al Shabaab in Somalia.[xvii]
  • Unidentified gunmen assassinated Somali Member of Parliament Hussien Abdisalam Mohamed as he drove through the Buulo Xubey market in Mogadishu on September 22.[xviii]
  • An IED exploded as a Somali National Army convoy drove through Afgoye town in Lower Shabelle region on September 23. No group claimed responsibility and at least three soldiers are confirmed injured.[xix]
  • A grenade attack killed two businessmen from Somalia and Yemen at the Bakara market in Mogadishu on September 21. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack that also injured six other civilians.[xx] 
  • Somali security forces arrested former aid to Omar Hammami, Abdikadir Abikar Osman, as he attempted to flee to Yemen.[xxi]
  • Puntland security forces arrested an unconfirmed number of young men in Galka’ayo on September 21, 2013. The operation was meant to arrest al Shabaab fighters in the region.[xxii]

[i] “Assassination of Big Officer in the Air Force in Sana’a,” al Ahale, September 23, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://alahale.net/article/13042
[ii] “Breaking: Gunmen Attacked Army Pickup in Kirsh After al Majidi’s Warnings about al Qaeda Activitiy,” Huna Aden, September 23, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://hunaaden.com/news/3631/
[iii] “Al Qaeda Kills Six Soldiers and Cuts Off Their Heads,” Wefaq Press, September 23, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://wefaqpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=8744
[iv] “Security Forces Foil Attempt to Blow Up House of President Hadi,” al Bald News, September 23, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.albaldnews.com/news5083.html
[v] “Breaking: Nine People Killed in Clashes Between Tribal Gunmen and Others From al Qaeda in Wadi Abeidah,” Barakish, September 22, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.barakish.net/news.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=56420
[vi] “Breaking: Man Killed and Three Wounded in Clashes Between Military Checkpoint and Tribesmen in Ma’rib,” Barakish, September 22, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.barakish.net/news.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=56431
[vii] “Minister of Defense Reveals Circumstances of the Attack in Shabwah and Who Was Behind It,” Mareb Press, September 23, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.marebpress.net/news_details.php?lng=arabic&sid=60043
[viii] “Intelligence Officer Survives Assassination in Hadramawt,” Mareb Press, Semptember 23, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.marebpress.net/news_details.php?lng=arabic&sid=60047
[ix] “Man Killed and Three Others Wounded in Grenade Explosion in Popular Market in Taiz,” Mareb Press, September 21, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.marebpress.net/news_details.php?lng=arabic&sid=60015
[x] “American Journalist Kidnapped in Yemen Capital,” Yemen Post, September 21, 2013 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=7230&MainCat=3
[xi] “Nairobi siege: What we know,” BBC, September 23, 2013. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24189116; “3 Islamic militants dead, more hostages freed in Nairobi mall terror attack,” Fox News, September 23, 2013. Available: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/09/23/most-hostages-freed-after-military-launches-assault-on-militants-in-mall/; “Kenyan police vow to ‘finish and punish’ Westgate Mall terrorists,” CNN, September 23, 2013. Available: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/23/world/africa/kenya-mall-attack/index.html?hpt=hp_t1
[xii]“Smoke pours from Kenya mall as forces ‘close in,’ Reuters, September 23, 2013. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/23/us-kenya-attack-idUSBRE98K03V20130923; “Kenyan police vow to ‘finish and punish’ Westgate Mall terrorists,” CNN, September 23, 2013. Available: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/23/world/africa/kenya-mall-attack/index.html?hpt=hp_t1; “Nairobi attack: Kenya forces  ‘clearing Westgate centre,” BBC, September 23, 2013. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24206913
[xiii] “Alshabab releases the names and nationalities of Westgate attackers,” Shabelle, September 23, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/?p=4382
[xiv] “Exclusive: Al-Shabaab- ‘Foreigners are not safe in Kenya,” Channel 4, September 22, 2013. Available: http://www.channel4.com/news/al-shabaab-nairobi-kenya-westgate-shopping-mall-attack
[xv] “Al Shabaab Twitter Account Suspended,” Bar Kulan, September 22, 2013. Available: http://www.bar-kulan.com/2013/09/22/al-shabaab-twitter-account-suspended/
[xvi] “Kenya beefs up security at all entry points after mall attack,” Bar Kulan, September 22, 2013. Available: http://www.bar-kulan.com/2013/09/22/kenya-beefs-up-security-at-all-entry-points-after-mall-attack/
[xvii] “Uganda on high alert, border security tightened,” Shabelle, September 23, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/?p=4389; “Uganda – UPDF,” AMISOM. Available: http://amisom-au.org/uganda-updf/
[xviii] “Somalia: Somali legislator gunned down by unknown assailants,” Raxanreeb, September 22, 2013. Available: http://www.raxanreeb.com/2013/09/somalia-somali-legislator-gunned-down-by-unknown-assailants/
[xix] “Landmine explosion targets government troops in Afgoye town lower Shabelle region,” Shabelle, September 23, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/?p=4386
[xx] “Bomb Blast Kills Two Businessmen in Somalia Capital,” Radio Dalsan, September 21, 2013. Available:  http://dalsanradio.com/articles/1441/Bomb-blast-kills-two-businessmen-in-Somalia-capital-Mogadishu
[xxi] “Security Agents arrest al Alriki’s aide – says spokesman,” Radio Dalsan, September 20, 2013. Available: http://dalsanradio.com/articles/1431/Security-agents-arrest-Al-Amrikis-aide-says-spokesman
[xxii] “Dozens arrested in Galka’ayo security operations,” Shabelle, September 21, 2013. Available: http://shabelle.net/?p=4214