Gulf of Aden Security Review

A regularly updated review of both Yemen and the Horn of Africa covering topics related to security, governance, and militant activity.

Yemen: Yemeni airstrikes reportedly kill six al Qaeda-linked militants near Lawder; suicide bomber detonates vehicle near Lawder; gunmen loyal to Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar close down Sana’a’s international airport; Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry states AQAP kidnapped Saudi diplomat on March 28; jihadist reports on the death of a Shumukh al Islam forum board member killed in recent Lawder clashes

Horn of Africa: TFG and Kenyan forces launch assault on al Shabaab positions on Afmadow outskirts; twin blasts in Mogadishu wound at least three people; Ethiopian Prime Minister announces that Ethiopia will withdraw from Somalia soon; al Shabaab releases video showing celebrations of merger with al Qaeda

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Yemeni Defense Ministry reported that Yemeni warplanes launched an airstrike against al Qaeda-linked militants near Lawder in Abyan governorate. Six militants were killed. Separately, eyewitnesses reported that one person was killed and two others wounded in mortar attacks on houses in Lawder.[1]
  • A Yemeni military official reported that a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near an army checkpoint on a highway between al Bayda and Abyan near Lawder on April 17. Three soldiers were killed and five more were wounded in the attack.[2]
  • A security official stated that dozens of gunmen loyal to Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar closed down Sana’a’s international airport on April 17 for the second time this month.[3]
  • Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said that Abdullah al Khaldi, a Saudi diplomat kidnapped in Aden on March 28, is being held by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al Turki stated that Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Sana’a received a phone call from a wanted Saudi citizen, Mishaal Mohammed Rasheed al Shadoukhi, claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and providing a list of demands. Al Shadhoi demanded a number of AQAP-affiliated members be released from Saudi jails, including several women, and a ransom be paid.[4]
  • On April 17, a jihadist reported that a fellow forum board member on Shumukh al Islam forums, Abu al Bara’a Muhammad Salim al Sudani, also known as Khallad al Farisi, was killed while fighting alongside Ansar al Sharia in Lawder on April 12. The jihadist added that al Sudani previously fought in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and travelled to Yemen to join Ansar al Sharia two months prior to his death. Al Sudani joined the forum board in November 2011 and last posted on February 4 to report on recent events in Zinjibar.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Kenyan forces launched an assault on al Shabaab positions on the outskirts of Afmadow in Lower Jubba region. Hundreds of residents fled Afmadow to Dhobley in anticipation of fighting inside the city.[6]
  • A man hid a bomb in a shopping plastic bag and then detonated it near Villa Baidoa, a TFG base in Mogadishu, wounding two civilians and the attacker himself. Another attacker threw a hand grenade at the Madina hospital, which is very close to Villa Baidoa, causing an unknown number of casualties.[7]
  • Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister, announced on April 17 that his country’s military will withdraw from Somalia soon, saying that its mission has been largely accomplished. The areas controlled by the Ethiopian National Defense Force will be handed over to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Zenawi said that Ethiopian forces have faced very little resistance from al Shabaab during the campaign in Somalia. No date or time frame was given as to when the Ethiopians will begin or complete their withdrawal.[8]
  • Al Kata’ib Foundation, the media wing of al Shabaab, posted a video on jihadist forums on April 15 showing ceremonies celebrating al Shabaab’s merger with al Qaeda in February. The video is titled “The Year of Unity, 1433” and features celebrations in Lafole (in Lower Shabelle), Kismayo (Lower Jubba), and Merca (Lower Jubba). Ali Mohamed Rage, al Shabaab’s spokesman, is shown urging jihad: "Are we ready to defend our religion and homes from those disbelievers? {People: Yes!} Are we ready to face this fierce Crusader campaign against our religion? {People: Yes!} Are we ready! {People: Yes!} Are we ready? {People: Yes!}.” Other speakers included Kismayo’s mayor and the governor of Lower Shabelle region.[9]      

[1] “Yemen Airstrike Kills 6 Qaeda-Linked Fighters: Government,” Reuters, April 18, 2012. Available:
[2] “Suicide Attacker Kills 3 Yemeni Soldiers in South,” AP, April 17, 2012. Available:
“Suicide Bomber Kills Three Yemeni Soldiers in South,” AFP, April 17, 2012. Available:
[3] “Pro Saleh Gunmen Close Down Sana’a Airport,” Yemen Post, April 17, 2012. Available:
[4] “Saudi Says its Diplomat Held by al-Qaeda in Yemen,” Yemen Post, April 17, 2012. Available:
[5] “Jihadist Reports Death of Forum Member, Ansar al-Shariah Fighter,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 17, 2012. Available at SITE.
[6] “Clashes Force Hundreds of Somalis to Flee from Afmadow Town,” Shabelle Media Network, April 18, 2012. Available:
[7] “Blast at TGF Military Base in Mogadishu Wounds 3 People,” Shabelle Media Network, April 18, 2012. Available:
[8] “Ethiopian Troops to Soon Leave Somalia; Prime Minister Calls Mission Successful,” AP, April 17, 2012. Available:
[9] “Shabaab Video Shows Ceremonies Marking Pledge to al-Qaeda,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 17, 2012. Available at SITE.
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