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 video calls for jihad in Yemen; Yemeni troops deployed to Ma’rib; attacks in Sana’a target Yemeni officials; two airstrikes in south Yemen kill at least five suspected AQAP militants; kidnapped Filipina nurse released
Horn of Africa: Three men charged in U.S. court for training with al Shabaab; al Shabaab claims 33 attacks; Kenya and Somalia seek extension of AMISOM mandate; Somalia’s internal security minister says al Shabaab regrouping in Lower Shabelle region; Somali troops conduct security operations in Bay region; fighting reported in Lower Jubba region; mortar attack in Mogadishu kills one person; Puntland troops free hostages; Somali police conduct operations in Middle Shabelle region; ONLF faction seeks peace talks
Yemen Security Brief
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) media arm, al Malahem Foundation, released a video on December 23, 2012 featuring the group’s deputy leader, military commander, and shari’a official, as well as a radical Yemeni cleric Sheikh Awad Muhammad Ba Nijar. The video is subtitled in English and is called, “Jihad of the Ummah.” The opening segment shows recent events, including a New York Times article on the September 11 Benghazi attack. AQAP’s military commander Qasim al Raymi comments on the recent unrest and says that “an enemy does not subside except with deterrence.” AQAP’s shari’a official Ibrahim al Rubaish, a former Guantanamo detainee, adds that “the weakness of the enemy has been witnessed . . . he cannot repel the attacks of protestors even if they are unarmed.” AQAP’s deputy leader Said al Shihri says that the “Crusader government,” the American government, has established military bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in Yemen. Rubaish focuses on the al Anad military base in Lahij governorate and a clip shows a C-130 on the runway. Finally, a clip of Nijar is shown giving a fatwa for jihad in Yemen, and Shihri calls for Muslims to apply the fatwa.
- Yemeni troops were deployed to secure a damaged oil pipeline in Wadi Habab in Ma’rib governorate on December 25. The Yemeni government demanded that local tribesmen turn over the individuals responsible for an earlier attack. Ensuing clashes killed at least ten militants, whose affiliation is not known, and seven soldiers. The Yemeni army troops were backed by air raids. Locals reported that four tribesmen were killed by artillery strikes on December 24. A tribal source reported that a prominent Ma’rib tribesmen, Salah bin Hussein al Dammaj, had ordered the pipelines attacks to pressure the Yemeni government to compensate him for land he claims was taken from him. Dammaj is allegedly seeking $480,000. The Yemeni army now controls the area surrounding the pipeline.
- Attacks in Sana’a targeted Yemeni officials on December 25. Gunmen attacked the home of Yemen’s minister of transportation Waed Bathib in Sana’a. Two guards were injured, according to a ministry official. A senior officer in the Central Security Forces was targeted by an attempted car bombing; the bomb was found and cleared. Separately, gunmen critically injured Republican Guard Colonel Sameer al Gharbani near the al Sawad military barracks in the capital’s Dar Salm district. Gharbani died from his wounds. Gunmen also killed Brigadier General Fadel Mohammed Ali, an adviser to the minister of defense, outside of the ministry.
- An airstrike in al Manaseh, near Rada’a in al Bayda governorate, killed at least two suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants on December 24. One of the men was Abdul Raoof Naseeb, a Yemeni who had escaped a strike in November 2002. Naseeb had reportedly fled to al Bayda from Lawder district in Abyan governorate earlier this year. He was also reported arrested in April 2012, but this was denied by AQAP’s insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia. Family members confirmed his death. The other man was reported to be a Jordanian. Local sources reported that three other militants were injured in the strike. A second airstrike on December 24 near the coastal town of al Shihr in Hadramawt governorate killed at least three people on motorcycles. Local residents reported that a fourth person was injured in the strike.
- Yemeni security services freed a Filipina nurse who had been kidnapped two hours earlier in Sana’a on December 23. Annie Jones is a nurse at a Yemeni government hospital in the capital. The two Finns and the Austrian kidnapped on December 21 in Sana’a have not been released. A Yemeni interior ministry official reported that tribesmen were holding the three for ransom in Khawlan, about 12 miles east of Sana’a. The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a issued a security message noting that there was an increased threat of kidnapping in Yemen.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Ali Yasin Ahmed, Mahdi Hashi, and Mohamed Yusuf appeared in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, on charges that they had trained to be suicide bombers with al Shabaab. The three defendants were arrested in August 2012 in Africa while they were traveling to Yemen and are accused of participating in training with al Shabaab, as well as fighting with the group, since December 2008. Ali Yasin Ahmed was born in Somalia, but lived most of his life in Sweden. Mahdi Hashi, also born in Somalia, was stripped of his British citizenship summer 2012. Mohamed Yusuf, like Ahmed, is believed to have moved to Sweden from Somalia.
- Al Shabaab released 11 English-language communiques on December 21 claiming 33 attacks between November 28 and December 8. An Arabic-language version of the communiques was released on the Global Islamic Media Front forum on December 20. Notably, al Shabaab claimed to have crucified two members of a militia that had established a blockade along the road between Marka and Mogadishu at Boshka village. Al Shabaab also claimed a number of small-scale attacks in Mogadishu.
- Kenya and Somalia have asked the UN Security Council to extend the mandate for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The mandate is set to expire on March 7, 2013. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud left for Uganda from Kenya to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
- Somalia’s internal security minister Abdikarin Hussein Guled reported on December 24 that al Shabaab militants were regrouping in areas of Lower Shabelle region. Guled’s statement occurred at a Somali cabinet meeting.
- Somalia National Army (SNA) troops attacked al Shabaab positions in Basali village in Aw Diinle district of Bay region on December 24. Bay region governor Abdifatah Geesy said that the SNA raids on al Shabaab would continue until the area was cleared of militants. A Somali army commander, Colonel Mahad Abdirahman, reported that a number of al Shabaab militants recently defected to the government in Bay region.
- Local reports from Dhobley, on the Somali border with Kenya in Lower Jubba region, say that clashes occurred on December 23 between SNA troops, backed by Kenyan AMISOM troops, and an unknown militia in Bulo Gadud village. The village had been an al Shabaab stronghold. Additional fighting was reported along the road between Taabta and Dhobley, where a Somali and Kenyan military convoy was ambushed. At least one Somali and one Kenyan soldier were killed.
- A mortar attack in Mogadishu’s Wardhigley district killed at least one person and injured four others on December 21, according to witnesses. The origin of the attack is not known. Somali police have been deployed to Daynile and Yaqshid districts in the capital, from where it is believed that al Shabaab militants are launching the mortars.
- Puntland’s Maritime Police Force (PMPF) freed 22 hostages captured by pirates three years ago on December 23. The Panama-flagged MV Iceberg One was taken off of the Yemeni coast on March 29, 2010, and has been held near the coastal village of Garaad in Mudug region. Puntland forces surrounded the pirates on December 10 and freed the hostages after two weeks of fighting.
- Somali police conducted clearing operations in Jowhar in Middle Shabelle region overnight on December 25 and arrested 9 suspects. Separately, al Shabaab militants refused to allow relatives of a deceased man to bury him in Mahaddey town in Middle Shabelle region. Al Shabaab accused the man of having supported Somali and allied troops when they took the town on December 9. Al Shabaab has regained control of it.
- A faction of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an ethnically Somali Ethiopian rebel group, announced on December 23 that it was seeking peace talks with the government. ONLF representative Abdinur Abdulaye Farah said that the group has seen diminished popular support and that more people want peace. Last year, a separate ONLF faction made a peace deal with the Ethiopian government. A separate faction led by former Somali navy chief Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman did not comment on the peace talks.