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: Saleh rejects GCC-mediated talks as pro- and anti-government demonstrators protest in Sana’a and Taiz; U.S. withholds aid package due to unrest; AQAP reportedly warns military to leave Abyan; Turkey announced support for GCC-mediated transition talks
Horn of Africa: Obama extended the state of national emergency with respect to Somalia beyond April 12, 2011; U.S. commander of Africa Command warns that al Qaeda growth in Africa poses threat to U.S. interests; hundreds of Mogadishu residents protested the UN-sponsored meeting in Nairobi; Somali PM met with Kenyan PM to discuss the UN-sponsored meeting; Estonia opens diplomatic relations with Somalia; tension runs high in central Somalia as Somali forces prepare for battle with al Shabaab; Ahlu Sunna says the Gedo region is ready to repel any al Shabaab attack
Yemen Security Brief
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected the Gulf Cooperation Council transition plan that called for Saleh to transfer power to the vice president in exchange for his family’s immunity from prosecution. Hundreds of thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators protested in Sana’a and Taiz. Speaking in Sana’a, Saleh said, “The Yemeni people are free to accept mediation from their brothers and friends, but they reject taking orders or intervention….We derive our authority and legitimacy from you and not from Qatar’s or other officials or from what Al-Jazeera says...we reject this belligerent intervention.” Two protestors were shot dead by Yemeni security forces in Taiz and dozens of others were injured, according to witnesses.
- The U.S. officials suspended a potential $1 billion dollar aid package to Yemen in February. The package would have included substantial development assistance and would also have increased support for counterterrorism.
- Xinhua reported that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had threatened government troops in Abyan governorate. According to the report, AQAP broadcasted over a local radio a warning calling on immediate withdrawal of all Yemeni military forces from Abyan within an hour, or its “suicide squads are ready to kill them all.” A Xinhua source reported that AQAP had seized territory from Lawder in Abyan governorate to Rodhom in Shabwah governorate, along with the coastal road that runs between the two governorates. Official statements from AQAP leadership are released through its media arm, al Malahem.
- Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a press statement supporting GCC-mediated transition talks. The press statement reads, “We expect Yemen's administration to show respect to fundamental rights and freedoms of the demonstrators who have been expressing their expectations and demands through peaceful means. We also expect the administration to take all necessary measures soon to halt attacks on civilian people. We wish Yemen's future to be determined within the scope of a comprehensive national dialogue process that would be carried out with the participation of all segments of the society. Turkey sincerely wishes stability and tranquility to be restored in Yemen soon.”
- The tribes involved in the April 5 gunfight outside General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar’s headquarters emphatically denied that they were trying to assassinate the defected general. According to Yemeni state news network SABA News, leaders of the Sanahan, Belad al Ros, and Bani Behlol tribes claimed that no one was armed in the convoy sent to the 1st Armored Division headquarters. The leaders added that General Ahmar’s brother was part of the convoy.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- President Obama notified Congress that he was extending the state of national emergency with respect to Somalia beyond the original April 12, 2011 end-date. In his message to Congress, Obama wrote, “The deterioration of the security situation and the persistence of violence in Somalia, and acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, which have repeatedly been the subject of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and violations of the Somalia arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to Somalia and related measures blocking the property of certain persons contributing to the conflict in Somalia.”
- General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), warned that al Qaeda’s growing influence in Africa poses a direct threat to U.S. interests abroad and at home. Testifying before the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services, Ham said, "If al-Qaida affiliates grow unchecked in the Horn of Africa or across the Sahel, it may lead to further attacks against US interests overseas or in the homeland." On Somalia, Ham said, “Somalia remains a failed state: divided, weak, and fragile. Despite the intentions of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to establish the sinews of a function state, Somalia is unable to provide essential services or control of its territory on its own...The survival of the TFG in Mogadishu depends, in large measure, on the presence of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the more than 8,000 troops supplied by willing African partners. Linked to Somalia's instability is al-Qaida's dramatic influence in east Africa over the last year. In early 2010, al-Shabaab announced their alignment with al-Qaida. This alliance provides al-Qaida a safe haven to plan global terror operations, train foreign fighters, and conduct global terror operations. The July 2010 attacks in Kampala, Uganda, demonstrate a willingness and capability to expand the conflict beyond Somalia. This situation poses a direct threat to the security of the United States." Ham said that al Shabaab already derives economic support from piracy, adding that al Qaeda would inevitably become associated with pirates.
- Hundreds of Mogadishu residents protested the UN-sponsored meeting in Nairobi. Demonstrators held up placards and banners that read: “We will never accept the outcome of Nairobi meeting [sic],” “We don’t want the conspiracy plotted Mahiga [sic].”
- Somali Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed met with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga to discuss the ramifications of the UN-sponsored meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Despite Odinga’s urgings, Mohammed insisted that Somalia would not be in attendance.
- Estonia announced that it will be establishing diplomatic relations with Somalia. In a press release, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said, “Establishing diplomatic relations with Somalia right now is directly tied to Estonia’s participation in the European Union military operation ATALANTA for protecting the ships sailing near Somalia from pirate attacks. Within the framework of ATALANTA, Estonia will send a Vessel Protection Detachment to ships sailing under the Somalian flag [sic], which requires the approval of the Somalian government [sic]. Establishing diplomatic relations with Somalia will allow for communication with the Somalian government [sic] and therefore the full participation of the Estonian detachment in the ATALANTA operation.”
- Somali forces and al Shabaab militants have been maneuvering outside of Beledweyne, the capital of central Somalia's Hiraan region. Shabelle Media Network reports that residents believe that fighting is imminent.
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a defense secretary Sheikh Ishaq Hussin Mursal said that Ahlu Sunna was ready to repel any al Shabaab attempt to recapture parts of the Gedo region in southern Somalia. Mursal added that al Shabaab’s blockade efforts had failed to isolate individual districts in the region.