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: AQAP’s military commander Qasim al Raymi escapes suspected U.S. drone strike in Shabwah, airstrikes near Zinjibar kill 16 al Qaeda-linked militants; airport in Sana’a attacked and briefly seized by ex-president loyalists; clashes in Abyan governorate kill 21 militants and five soldiers; security officer killed in Taiz by gunman on a motorcycle; GPC leader in Arhab district north of Sana’a escapes assassination attempt; AQAP official Ibrahim al Rubaish encourages newly released Muslim prisoners to support others in prison and continue in their steadfastness
Horn of Africa: Roadside bomb kills five people in Baidoa; al Shabaab militants ambush Ahlu Sunna troops outside of Elbur; senior Somali officials die from wounds sustained during April 4 theater bombing; Sierra Leonean military officials arrive in Baidoa for military consultations; al Shabaab releases four communiqués; 104 people arrested in Garowe
Yemen Security Brief
- On April 7, a suspected U.S. drone allegedly targeted and missed a vehicle carrying al Qaeda-linked militants in Shabwah governorate reportedly travelling to Ma’rib governorate. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) military commander Qasim al Raymi was believed to be the target of the drone strike. In a separate incident, the defense ministry reported that 16 al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in an airstrike on al Kod near Zinjibar in Abyan governorate on April 8.
- Yemen’s airport in Sana’a reopened on April 8 after it had been briefly seized by gunmen loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on April 7. The gunmen reportedly shot at the surveillance tower and used tanks to block the tarmac. The attacks on the airport occurred after command changes in the military, led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, purged several ex-regime loyalists from the security forces, including ex-air force commander General Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar and ex-Presidential Guard commander Tareq Saleh. The air force base next to the airport reportedly remained in the control of ex-regime loyalists. General Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar warned the newly appointed air force commander General Rashid al Janad of attempting to enter.
- Army officials reported clashes between Ansar al Sharia militants and Yemeni soldiers killed 18 militants and five soldiers and wounded three others in Lawder in Abyan governorate. A local official reported that tribal militiamen fought alongside Yemeni soldiers. The militants reportedly launched the dawn attack in an attempt to overrun an army outpost. Separately, three militants were killed by government shelling on Jaar in Abyan governorate.
- Local sources reported that security officer “Major Brigadier” Ismail Ba-Alwi was shot and killed by a suspected terrorist on a motorcycle in Taiz on April 8.
- The General People’s Congress (GPC) party’s general secretary of the local council in Arhab district north of Sana’a, Abdul Alam Abu Nashtan, escaped an assassination attempt on April 8. Local sources reported that unidentified gunmen opened fire on his vehicle killing one of his guards.
- AQAP released a video through its media wing al Malahem Foundation on April 5 on jihadist forums. The video features Ibrahim al Rubaish, a former Guantanamo detainee, discussing Muslim prisoners and the religious reawakening and strengthening that they should encounter during such experiences. He specifically mentions Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to release certain prisoners, warning Muslims not to interpret Saudi Arabia’s actions as a good deed, but argues that they should not have been imprisoned in the first place. He added, “Caution, O slaves of Allah, that some say, 'My son or my brother is out, so why should I be concerned about others?' Because all of those in prison are your brothers. The believers are brothers. If this selfishness spreads in the Ummah [community], then its enemies will be happy.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A roadside bomb targeting a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) military vehicle killed at least five people and wounded seven others in Baidoa, the capital of Bay region. The bomb was believed to have been a remotely-controlled landmine. Three of the dead were civilians and two were TFG soldiers.
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces in El Qohle, a village just outside of Elbur on the night of April 7 in Galgudud region. At least ten people were killed in the fighting. Ahlu Sunna reportedly retained control of the area.
- Two senior Somali officials died over the weekend due to injuries sustained in the April 4 suicide bombing at Mogadishu’s national theater. Mowlid Ma’ana Mohamud, an MP, died on April 8 and Feisal Haji Elmi, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali’s senior advisor on social affairs, on April 7. Both had been receiving medical treatment in Nairobi.
- For the first time, Sierra Leonean military officials arrived in Somalia – specifically, in Elwaq in Gedo region. They had consultations with Kenyan and TFG officials. Sierra Leonean troops are expected to arrive in Somalia in June as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
- Al Shabaab released four communiqués on jihadist forums on April 4, claiming responsibility for various activities. The group claimed to have planted explosives in Hudur’s police station on March 23, destroying the building, wounding at least 26 Ethiopian and TFG soldiers, and killing a TFG commander. An Islamic court in Dinsor in Bay region sentenced a young man accused of rape to death, and sentencing was carried out the same day (March 23). Al Shabaab also reported that two Kenyan planes bombed an area near Fafadun in Gedo region on March 23, claiming that they were targeting “a lake that the shepherds used to gather water for their animals.” Four women, al Shabaab says, were wounded in the airstrikes. Finally, al Shabaab militants assassinated an officer “from the apostate militia” in the Laba Daqah neighborhood of Mogadishu on March 25. Another officer was wounded in the same attack.
- On April 8, police arrested 104 people in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, on suspicion of being members of al Shabaab and of drug dealing. Most of the detainees were released after questioning.