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: Southern Movement militants kidnapped Yemeni major in Habilian; Yemen deployed forces to Lahij governorate; Southern Movement demonstrates in Lahij governorate; U.S. official says personnel attacked last week CIA agents; Brennan discusses U.S. policy in Yemen; WikiLeak cable released on Yemen nuclear material
Horn of Africa: Hizb al Islam merges with al Shabaab; al Shabaab describes attack on base, punishment in statements; al Shabaab commander publicly criticizes leader; roadside bomb kills seven people in Mogadishu; clashes in Bondhere and Abdi Aziz districts kill one person; TFG forces report capture of al Shabaab military vehicle; TFG and AMISOM report on security in Mogadishu; TFG describes plan to secure city; Somaliland to investigate Puntland-bound military supply plane; Uganda prepared for attacks
Yemen Security Brief
- A Yemen security official reported the kidnapping of Captain Mohammed Ali Abdullah Hadyan near a security checkpoint north of Habilain in Lahij governorate at noon on Sunday. Taher Tammah, a leader of the more militant faction of the Southern Movement, confirmed the abduction and added that the officer is from an important tribe, which would “[put] pressure on the occupying authorities to release our detainees.” Reportedly, the kidnappers are demanding the release of detained separatists by noon Monday and threatened the officer’s life.
- Yemen has deployed at least ten armored vehicles, tanks, and hundreds of soldiers Taiz governorate to Lahij governorate. The soldiers are now stationed in Habilain, where hundreds of Southern Movement supporters are demonstrating after security forces killed wanted militant Abbas Tanbaj. Locals report that government military reinforcements in Habilain have led to clashes with separatists.
- Southern Movement supporters demonstrated in the town of Radfan in Lahij governorate to protest the shooting of Abbas Tanbaj. Thousands of people partook in the “demonstration of anger” and carried photos of Tanbaj, along with flags of the former southern republic. The demonstrators marched to downtown Habilain, where a rally was being held.
- A U.S. official confirmed that the four U.S. embassy personnel attacked last week worked for the CIA. The official added that there was “no indication that the perpetrators knew specifically who they were targeting.”
- Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan said, “Achieving our shared goal of disrupting and dismantling the al Qaeda network in Yemen will require patience…. We will need to draw on not just our cooperation with Yemen and other partner nations against al Qaeda but also refine and develop intelligence relationships, security screening processes and Yemen counterterrorism forces to address effectively the threat posted by al Qaeda.” Brennan also said, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is now the most operationally active node of the al Qaeda network…. The ranks of al Qaeda have been bolstered by members with ties to the West, or with American citizenship, such as Anwar al-Awlaki. Indeed, al Qaeda is seeking to attract not just Westerners or Americans overseas, but Americans inside the United States.”
- The Guardian reports that a senior Yemeni government official warned in a leaked cable dated January 9, 2010 that “Very little now stands between the bad guys and Yemen’s nuclear material.” The only guard on duty had been removed from his post and the closed circuit TV (CCTV) security camera had been broken for six months. The cable revealed that within days the radioactive isotopes, which could be used to make a dirty bomb, had been relocated to a more secure facility.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Hizb al Islam has merged with al Shabaab. The group’s spokesman, Mohamed Osman Arus, said, “We have decided to rejoin the Shebab and dissolve Hezb al-Islam. I can tell you from today (Sunday) our group, including the highest commanders, will become members of the Shehab.” Arus denied that the merger occurred due to military dominance by al Shabaab and said that it was a “bonus for the Mujahideen and a bane to the invaders and mercenaries.” Reportedly, the groups’ leadership met in Elasha Biyaha district Sunday evening to formalize the merger. A senior Hizb al Islam commander in the Gedo region, Sheikh Farhan Abdi Ciilmooge, reported Sunday that “his fighters in the town of Luuq have united with the Shabab.” Hizb al Islam is estimated to have approximately 2,500-3,000 fighters under its command.
- Al Shabaab’s Brigade of Sheikh Mustafa Abu Yazid, which is stationed on Makka al Mukarama road, attacked the Beit al Ummah military base along the road according to a statement released by the group on December 16. Reportedly, the group used anti-tank missiles to attack the base and killed the government commander stationed there. A second statement reported on the punishment of a 23 year-old-man, Dih Abdi Ahmed, for theft. His sentence, having his hand cut off, was executed publicly in Elbur, the capital of Galgudud region.
- Radio Garowe reports that Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, also known as Shongole, publicly accused al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Sheikh Mukhtar Abdirahman Abu Zubair, of “hidden agendas.” Shongole said, “The fighting in Burhakaba was not jihad, because its haram [prohibited] for a Muslim person to kill another Muslim person and then brag about it.” Shongole is reportedly close to al Shabaab deputy leader Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansur.
- A roadside bomb killed six Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers when they tried to remove it at the Ex-control checkpoint south of Mogadishu. Soldiers reacted and opened fire, killing a civilian.
- Clashes between al Shabaab militants and TFG and AMISOM troops in Bondhere and Abdi Aziz districts in Mogadishu killed one person and injured two others Saturday morning.
- TFG forces at the Ex-control checkpoint in south Mogadishu report that they have captured an al Shabaab military vehicle carrying AK-47 rifles, artillery ammunitions, and “explosive elements.”
- Abdulkareem Hassan Jama, the TFG Minister of Information and Telecommunications, said, “There are vast areas of Mogadishu, over 55 percent, which is controlled, along with the AMISOM forces, but the Somali army, the transitional government forces.” The Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Wafula Wamunyinyi, reported that the TFG and AMISOM now control eight districts in Mogadishu and that the security situation has improved greatly in the capital.
- TFG Minister of Home Affairs and National Security reported that the TFG has begun its 100-day plan to remove al Shabaab. TFG Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo reported that the capital would be divided into quarters and there would be 500 soldiers stationed in each part.
- Somaliland’s Transport Minister Abdi Hashi reported that the case of the military supply plane en route to Puntland has been transferred to the prosecutor and will be heard in court. The prosecutor will look into the violation of Somaliland airspace, the violation of the UN arms embargo on Somalia, and the presence of two South Africans.
- Ugandan police chief, Inspector General Kale Kayihura, said, “Terror threats from al-Qaeda, al-Shebab, and ADF [Allied Democratic Forces] are the main threats as we go for the festive season and there are strong indications they want to attack.”