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 military clashes with al Qaeda-linked militants; Republican Guard forces battle First Armored Division troops in Sana’a; the Islah Party and al Houthis sign a ceasefire agreement in Jawf; defected Yemeni commander survives assassination attempt; Saleh refuses to sign amended GCC deal; Islah’s Sheikh Hamid al Ahmar calls for seizure of Saleh’s funds
Horn of Africa: Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed declares a state of emergency in Mogadishu; Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali calls for creation of a special security force; Uganda to deploy 2000 troops to Somalia; AMISOM troops discover al Shabaab weapons cache; al Shabaab announces shift in tactics; former Somali defense minister and member of parliament claims airstrikes targeting al Shabaab will continue; al Shabaab spokesman denies existence of internal conflicts; roadside bomb injures two Puntland soldiers
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemeni military forces clashed with al Qaeda-linked militants in Zinjibar, Dofus, and Jaar in southern Yemen. A military official reported that three soldiers and fourteen militants were killed in clashes which broke out after militants ambushed two military outposts near Zinjibar. Two soldiers were wounded in the clashes. Three additional militants were killed by a subsequent airstrike. The clashes lasted for more than 24 hours.
- Republican Guard forces clashed with troops from defected General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar’s First Armored Division in northwestern Sana’a. At least two soldiers from the First Armored Division were killed in addition to one civilian. A Yemeni military official reported the clashes “erupted when the Republican Guards attempted to gain new ground” in northwestern Sana’a.
- The Islamist Islah Party and the al Houthi rebels signed a ceasefire agreement, sponsored by tribal mediators, to end fighting in Jawf. As part of the agreement, the Islah Party’s Sheikh Hussein al Thaneen will become governor of Jawf on August 17 when the Yemeni opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) has claimed it will announce a national council. The agreement also mandated that all armed groups withdraw from their positions. Forces from the First Armored Division will take control of the military bases in the area.
- Military officials reported that the defected commander of the 310th armored division, Hamid al Qushaibi, survived an assassination attempt in Amran governorate. One man suspected of planting an “explosive device” in Qushaibi’s car has been arrested.
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh has yet to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-sponsored transition deal that negotiators have now modified for the sixth time. Yemeni diplomats reported that a significant amendment was made to the deal. They said that the amendment dictated a two-phase transition. The first phase, to be completed by the end of 2011, is that the ruling party and the opposition “agree to elect Vice President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi as head of Yemen.” The amendment provided that “the second phase will be two years during which amendments to the constitution would be approved and the regime changed until new parliamentary elections are held.” Saleh nevertheless refused to sign the deal, citing that the opposition’s condition for restructuring the Yemeni forces prior to any transition was unacceptable.
- Sheikh Hamid al Ahmar, key figure in the Islamist Islah Party, called upon the international community to take financial action against President Saleh. Al Ahmar stated, “I call on Western states... to begin proceedings to seize the possessions and money of Saleh and his family, because they belong to the Yemeni people.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed declared a three-month state of emergency in some areas vacated by al Shabaab and in refugee camps located in Mogadishu on August 13. The president emphasized that clan militias are banned from Mogadishu neighborhoods previously controlled by al Shabaab. During the state of emergency, the Somali military has full authority “of handling any crime.” The Somali president added that “Everybody is responsible for assuring the security, the people have their responsibility same as the national army.”
- Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stated his intent to create “a special humanitarian force, which has dual purposes. First to secure and protect the food aid convoy, and to protect the camps and stabilise the city and fight banditry and looting." The prime minister did not state who would provide the estimated 300 troops for the force.
- Uganda will reportedly deploy 2,000 troops to Somalia as soon as possible. AMISOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda reported that “The Ugandan president made the pledge and 2,000 Ugandan troops will come as soon as logistics allow… part of the long awaited deployment of 3,000 troops,” pledged in June. The Ugandan president reportedly offered to deploy more troops if other countries provided necessary financing.
- AMISOM troops discovered a weapons cache on August 12 abandoned by al Shabaab in Bakara Market in Mogadishu . Troops found 137 155-MM artillery shells which, according to AMISOM spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, al Shabaab stored “…in order to make improvised bombs to launch a campaign of terror in Mogadishu.” Ankunda said following the discovery of the cache, “It will take time but by improving security in the city, particularly in the commercial heart of Bakara Market, residents will be able to return and businesses can start trading again.”
- Al Shabaab released a statement on August 14 announcing that the group had decided to make a tactical shift in its attacks. The statement indicated that al Shabaab was now primarily conducting “hit and run” attacks against Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM forces. In the statement, al Shabaab claimed the “hit and run” attacks have effectively caused many TFG and AMISOM casualties.
- Former Somali Transitional Federal Government Defense Minister and current parliamentarian Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig stated that airstrikes targeting al Shabaab militants will continue. Hidig indicated that the Somali “government and partner countries will continue hunting down the Al shabaab fighters and their leaders wherever they are in the horn of African nation.” Hidig noted that foreign jihadists who traveled from abroad to support al Shabaab would be “priority targets.”
- Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage, also known as Ali Dhere, denied reports that internal conflicts had led to al Shabaab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu. Another al Shabaab leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, had previously told reporters that tensions within al Shabaab were a major impetus for the group’s withdrawal. Rage claimed that reports citing internal al Shabaab tensions were merely propaganda and that the Somali Transitional Federal Government is al Shabaab’s sole adversary.
- An explosion from a roadside bomb wounded two Puntland soldiers in Galkayo on August 13. Puntland Security Minister Colonel Khalif Isse Mudan reported that security forces have arrested “a number of people in connection with the bomb attack.” As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for carrying out the attack.