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: Presidential elections are underway; militants attack polling stations across southern Yemen; an explosion targets a polling station in Aden; U.S. sets the conditions for providing aid to Yemen; Ansar al Sharia releases its ninth report on activities and confirms the death of Tareq al Dhahab; U.S. Ambassador to Yemen warns of an increase in Iranian activity
Horn of Africa: Landmine explosion targets Ethiopian soldiers in Beledweyne; bomb blast in Badbado camp kills TFG soldier; Puntland soldiers arrest five members of al Shabaab; al Shabaab launches mortar attack on residential neighborhood in Mogadishu, killing two civilians and wounding eight others; KDF launches airstrike on Bulo Haji in Lower Jubba; al Shabaab announces that it has planned a series of bombing attacks in Mogadishu; al Shabaab has killed at least 30 Kenyan civilians since Kenya’s invasion last October; TFG thwarts al Shabaab car bombing plot; fighting between TFG, AMISOM, and al Shabaab kills at least 10 people and injures 20 others in Mogadishu; TFG and Ethiopian forces are en route to Bay and Bakool regions; fighting between TFG, AMISOM, and al Shabaab at Afgoi checkpoint kills two civilians; al Shabaab attacks police station in Garissa in northeastern Kenya; al Shabaab reports celebrations because of its merger with al Qaeda; al Shabaab releases four statements
Yemen Security Brief
- Voters across Yemen are casting ballots in the one-candidate presidential election. Sole candidate Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi said, “Elections are the only exit route from the crisis which has buffeted Yemen for the past year,” after casting his vote. Today will mark the formal end to former President Saleh’s 33 years of rule.
- A security official reported that militants attacked six polling stations across southern Yemen. Four people were killed and 19 others were injured. Fighting is reportedly ongoing between Yemen security forces and Southern Movement militants in al Mansoura and al Mualla districts in Aden. Southern Movement militants fired on a polling booth in Crater district in Aden, wounding one Yemeni soldier. Separately, a child was reportedly killed in Aden when militants and police exchanged gunfire in Dar Saad neighborhood. In al Mukalla in Hadramawt, a Yemeni soldier was killed after separatists stormed a polling station. In al Hawtah in Lahij, clashes between militants and security forces killed one protester and wounded two others. In addition, more than 20 polling stations were allegedly closed in the northern governorates of Hajjah and Sa’ada and the southern governorates of Abyan, Aden, Shabwah, and al Dhaleh.
- On February 20, a bomb ripped through a polling station in Aden. Unidentified gunmen opened fire following the attack. One soldier was killed and another was wounded in the explosion and subsequent firefight.
- A senior U.S. official reported that the Obama administration is prepared to provide Yemen with aid if the “new government moves quickly to restructure its military forces, stem official corruption and implement electoral reforms.”
- Ansar al Sharia released its ninth report on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) activities on jihadist forums through its media wing Madad News Agency on February 20. The issue reported that AQAP attacked the al Houthis in Ma’rib and Sa’ada governorates. Additionally, the statement claimed that AQAP was responsibile for killing Sana’a’s political prison director and a number of other Yemeni intelligence officers. The report confirmed the death of Abdul Munim al Fathani by an American airstrike on January 30. Finally, the issue details the brief capture of Rada’a. In a separate communiqué released on February 19, AQAP confirmed the death of Tareq al Dhahab. AQAP claimed that it took revenge by targeting the killer, Tareq’s half-brother Hizam, using a vehicle filled with explosives.
- U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein warned that Iran is attempting to increase its influence in Yemen. Feierstein said, “I think that we are seeing increasing Iranian outreach to various actors."
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A landmine targeting Ethiopian soldiers exploded in Hawo Tako village in Beledweyne in Hiraan region. The number of casualties has not been reported.
- A bomb went off in Badbado camp in Mogadishu’s Dharkenley district overnight. One TFG soldier was reported killed in the camp, which houses thousands of internally displaced persons.
- Puntland forces arrested five suspected members of al Shabaab after a raid in northern Galkayo.
- Two civilians were killed and eight others wounded during an al Shabaab mortar attack on General Daud village in Mogadishu’s Yaqshid District. The February 20 attack was on a residential neighborhood and there was no engagement by al Shabaab with TFG forces.
- The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) carried out an airstrike against an al Shabaab stronghold in Bulo Haji in Lower Jubba on February 19. The number of militants dead or wounded has not been verified.
- Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Mus’ab announced on February 18 that the terrorist organization had planned a series of suicide attacks in Mogadishu. "The explosion which hit at the police headquarters on Friday was the beginning of a series of suicide and bombing attacks that mujahedeen fighters plan to carry out in Mogadishu in the coming days," he said. "We will continue bombing... We call on civilians to stay away from those areas where the enemy is based."
- On February 18, Kenyan police spokesman Eric Kiraithe announced that at least 30 Kenyan civilians have been killed by al Shabaab militants since October 2011, when the Kenyan military entered Somalia.
- TFG military spokesman Aden Kalmoy announced in a press conference on February 18 that TFG forces had foiled an al Shabaab plot to set off car bombs against government targets in Mogadishu.
- At least 10 people were killed and 20 injured in clashes between TFG and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and al Shabaab militants in Mogadishu’s northern Karan district. Fighting broke out on the night of February 19 when al Shabaab fighters attacked TFG and AMISOM bases in Karan’s Jamhuriyah village.
- Local eyewitnesses reported that Ethiopian and TFG troops left Luq on February 18 en route to Bay and Bakool regions.
- Heavy fighting broke out on the night of February 19 between TFG and AMISOM forces and al Shabaab militants at the Afgoi checkpoint, which is controlled by TFG forces. Two civilians were killed and an unknown amount injured.
- Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a February 19 attack on a police station in Garissa, in northeastern Kenya. At least one policeman and one civilian were reportedly killed, and two civilians wounded.
- Al Shabaab issued communiqués reporting celebrations in Baidoa and Kismayo due to the terrorist group’s merger with al Qaeda.
- Al Shabaab released four statements on February 20, on the shelling of Kenyan forces in Taabta village, a meeting with merchants in Banadir and Lower Shabelle regions, attacks on the “apostates” in northern Mogadishu, and an attack on a checkpoint near Dhobley.