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: U.S. security officials now consider AQAP top threat; AQAP militants flee Lawder following security crackdown; Doha talks commence between al Houthis, Yemeni government; Amnesty International criticizes Yemen for using counter-terrorism as excuse for human rights violations; security officials discover bomb with fuses in Sa’wan district
Horn of Africa: Fighting between Islamists, pro-government forces continues in Mogadishu for third consecutive day; death toll from al Shabaab hotel attack rises to 33; Somaliland police arrest three terror suspects, seize explosives; veteran Somali journalist killed in Mogadishu fighting
Yemen Security Brief
- American security officials consider al Qaeda in the American Peninsula (AQAP) the most urgent threat to U.S. national security, marking the first time since 9/11 they have considered an al Qaeda offshoot more dangerous than the core group itself. As a result, the Obama Administration is reportedly considering ramping up its efforts in Yemen, including possibly utilizing armed drones in its current clandestine operations there. “We are looking to draw on all of the capabilities at our disposal,” an anonymous senior administration official said, adding that plans are underway to increase operations in Yemen over a period of months. Another anonymous official said AQAP is a growing threat. "The relative concern ratios are changing. We're more concerned now about AQAP than we were before," he said. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, said, "It's very possible the next terrorist attack will see its origins coming out of Yemen and Somalia rather than out of Pakistan."
- AQAP members fled the city of Lawder in Abyan governorate on Tuesday following a large security operation by government forces to clear them from the town and restore order there. The latest fighting left four militants dead and forced the rest of them to evacuate the town, according to Yemen’s Interior Ministry. The death toll from fighting there, which began last Friday, was 33, including 11 soldiers, 19 suspected militants, and three civilians.
- Truce talks between Yemeni government negotiators and al Houthi rebels began Tuesday in Doha under Qatari sponsorship, both sides confirmed. Yahya al Houthi, the exiled brother of the leader of the al Houthi rebels, Abdul Malik al Houthi, will partake in the talks.
- Amnesty International accused Yemen of using counter-terrorism as a carte blanche to violate human rights in a report it released on Wednesday. "Yemeni authorities, under pressure from the (United States) and others to fight al-Qaida, and Saudi Arabia to deal with the Huthis, have been citing national security as a pretext to deal with opposition and stifle all criticism," said Malcolm Smart, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director. The report said at least 34 people have been sentenced to death for alleged ties to the al Houthi rebels and security forces killed at least 113 people in anti-terror operations in the last year alone.
- Yemeni security forces discovered a bomb with 16 explosive fuses in Sa’wan district of Sana’a governorate on Wednesday, according to the Interior Ministry.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A third consecutive day of heavy fighting between Islamist militants and pro-government forces killed eight people in Mogadishu on Wednesday, driving the week’s death toll past 80. Al Shabaab continued its offensive Tuesday night, pushing towards the Villa Somalia before AMISOM troops managed to repulse the attackers Wednesday morning. "They attacked us last night in large numbers with RPGs and mortars, trying to run over us and seize the Mecca-Almukara strategic road. For military tactics we initially retreated overnight, and this morning as we received reinforcements we repulsed them," said Sheikh Osman, a pro-government militia commander. The fighting occurred predominantly in the Hodan and Wardhigley districts. TFG army officer Issa Ali said his forces were nearly overrun before AMISOM troops reinforced them. "They came close tonight but behind us are AMISOM tanks and at last we drove them away," he said.
- The death toll from al Shabaab’s Tuesday attack on the Muna Hotel in Mogadishu rose to 33, including a confirmed two suicide bombers who blew themselves up when security forces intervened. The number of attackers is still unclear; some Somali officials said it was just the two who blew themselves up, while others said there were at least four. Each of the militants was disguised as a security officer, wearing army fatigues. The White House condemned the attack. Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security John Brennan called it “a particularly outrageous act during the Islamic month of Ramadan and said “Al-Shabab's vision for Africa stands in sharp contrast to the vision of the overwhelming majority of Africans.” The United Nations Security Council also condemned the attacks. “Members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest term the attack that killed innocent people and parliamentarian members,” said the council president, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
- Somaliland police arrested three men in Hargeisa suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in the semi-autonomous state. Police reports claim the men had large amounts of explosives in their possession at the time of their arrest. Somaliland Police Commissioner Mohamed Saqadi Dubad said one of the men has a critical gunshot wound, and his comrades claimed they were in the city to find him medical assistance.
- A veteran Somali journalist, Barkhat Awale Adan, was killed in Tuesday’s fighting when a stray bullet hit him atop Hurma Radio station’s roof.