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: Gunmen kidnap three soldiers in attack on security headquarters; explosion kills one protestor at Southern Movement demonstration; armed men kidnap eleven soldiers; AQAP militants massing for attack on security forces in Lawder; AQAP praises al Shabaab; Saleh announces plans for a national unity government to supervise parliamentary elections; Saleh orders security forces to protect all demonstrators; MP resigns; Interior Minister repeats promise to protect protestors; VP meets with Islamic scholars in Aden; cabinet promises to investigate Sana’a University shooting; Amnesty International condemns growing violence; protestors call for resignation of Libyan ambassador
Horn of Africa: At least fifty people killed as TFG and AMISOM forces launch major offensive against al Shabaab fighters; al Shabaab spokesman displays AMISOM prisoner, denies that al Shabaab militants are in retreat; AMISOM, IGAD, UPOS publish communiqué outlining plan for restoring peace in Somalia; Somaliland builds new prison for pirates; al Shabaab communiqués claim credit for suicide bombing and display body of dead AMISOM soldier and captured weaponry
Yemen Security Brief
- Southern Movement militants attacked the headquarters of the Central Security forces in Lahij governorate, injuring at least six policemen and kidnapping Captain Mohamed Ali al Fakeeh, the local commander, along with two other soldiers. Xinhua reported that at least fifteen armed men attacked the building with grenades and small arms before fleeing with their hostages.
- At least one civilian was killed during a Southern Movement protest in the city of Lawder in Abyan governorate. A mine planted along a route frequently used by demonstrators exploded. No group has claimed responsibility.
- Armed men kidnapped Colonel Ahmed Saleh al Sabehi, commander of the tank detachment of Brigade 103, and ten of his men, as the soldiers traveled through the Khamer district of Sa’ada governorate en route to Amran governorate. The Yemen Post cited local sources who suggested the abductions may be related to a tribal dispute.
- The Yemen Post reported that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants have begun massing in Lawder in preparation for an attack on military headquarters in the region. A security source said that AQAP fighters are out in the open and are equipped with automatic weapons, RPGs and shoulder-fired missiles and warned that they will likely attack the 111th Brigade. An unnamed political analyst cautioned that AQAP leaders may be planning to follow the example of al Qaeda leaders in Libya and declare Lawder as an Islamic Emirate within Yemen.
- The 16th issue of AQAP’s Arabic-language magazine, Sada al Malahem (Echo of the Epics), released on jihadist forums February 15, praised Somalia-based extremist group al Shabaab and extolled their campaign as an “honorable model and a beautiful image” which serves as an example of a jihad that has not become “lost in the corridors of politics or the basement of the illusory interests.”
- President Saleh’s personal website reported that Saleh announced plans for a national unity government to supervise the upcoming parliamentary election. Saleh told Leslie Campbell, Senior Associate and Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa with the National Democratic Institute, that ongoing demonstrations must be stopped to create a suitable environment for elections. Saleh reaffirmed he will not run in the 2013 presidential election and promised to allow regional and international supervision of future elections.
- President Saleh ordered security forces to prevent any outbreaks of violence between pro- and anti-government demonstrators. Saleh also warned both groups to be wary of saboteurs who may try to infiltrate their rallies and incite violence, saying that “the government calls on protestors to remain vigilant and take all precautionary steps to prevent the infiltrations of individuals seeking to carry out violent actions.”
- Faud Dhaba, a MP from the Islah party, resigned from parliament and joined protestors on the Sana’a University campus. Dhaba said that the Yemeni Parliament’s failure to provide reforms to the Yemeni people prompted his resignation.
- SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, reported that Yemeni Interior Minister Mutahar al Masri told U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein that security personnel provide impartial protection to both pro and anti-government demonstrators at rallies and sit-ins. The two diplomats discussed the situation in Yemen, and Feierstein commended the restraint demonstrated by Yemeni security officers thus far.
- Yemeni Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi met with preachers and Islamic scholars in Aden and urged them to use their influence to end violent demonstrations. Hadi also promised to create more jobs for youths in Aden, and stated that many regard Aden as a national symbol of peace and unity.
- SABA News cited an unnamed source in the cabinet who expressed regret over the death of at least one protestor in a shooting outside Sana’a University and promised that a committee had been formed to investigate the incident and punish those responsible.
- Amnesty International issued a report condemning growing violence in Yemen. Philip Luther, the Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, warned that “this disturbing development indicates that the heavy-handed tactics which we have seen the security forces using with lethal effect against protestors in the south of Yemen are increasingly being employed elsewhere.” A total of sixteen protestors have been killed thus far, including thirteen in the city of Aden.
- Nearly fifty protestors gathered outside the Libyan Embassy in Sana’a and demanded the resignation of Libya’s ambassador to Yemen. Many of the demonstrators came from a sit-in at nearby Sana’a University. One man told the Yemen Times, “there are many differences between Libya and Yemen but we must support those trying to topple corrupt regimes.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- AMISOM and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces launched a major offensive against al Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu, capturing five strategic locations and securing over half of the city. TFG and AMISOM soldiers took control of the Defense Ministry, a military radar center, Jalle Siad military academy, Tusbahle wells and the Dabley center in multiple battles which killed at least 20 people across Mogadishu. AMISOM spokesman Major Barigye Bahuko claimed that AMISOM soldiers had killed at least 14 al Shabaab militants. TFG Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared that the majority of al Shabaab’s commanders had fled Mogadishu and were likely sheltering in the Hiraan and Gedo regions where fighting continues. Jowhar Online reported that Hasaan Iley, a top al Shabaab commander, was killed along with thirteen other high-ranking officials. Mohamed also warned that al Shabaab may plan suicide bombings as their conventional forces grow weaker. TFG Defense Minister Abdulhakim Hajji Fiki told reporters, “Our enemies have been weakened and the fighting will continue until we have captured the city.” Locals told Shabelle Media Network that heavy fighting between al Shabaab militants and government soldiers is still underway in the towns of Beled Hawo, Beledweyne and the surrounding areas. Relief Web reported that at least eleven people were killed in Beledweye and at least thirteen people in Beled Hawo, and estimated the total death toll across Somalia to be at least fifty people.
- Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage displayed a captured Burundian soldier and the bodies of seven dead AMISOM soldiers to reporters and promised to exhibit the bodies of more than twenty AMISOM and TFG casualties to local media at an upcoming press conference. Rage denied recent reports that al Shabaab fighters were in retreat.
- AMISOM, the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) issued a joint communiqué announcing a new Joint Regional Strategy (JRS) to support the TFG in managing the transitional period. The JRS urged that AMISOM, UPOS and IGAD cooperate in a number of areas, notably “in the promotion of peace, security and stability in Somalia.”
- Somaliland officials unveiled a new prison in the city of Hargeisa specifically constructed to hold pirates captured by international forces. The Norwegian government contributed to the building of the new prison, and Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide attended the opening of the facility. Eide praised the new prison and promised further assistance for Somaliland law enforcement, “including police, courts, and correctional services, and also for the development of more modern legal codes.”
- Al Shabaab issued two communiqués through its media arm, al Kata'ib Foundation for Media Production. The first, published on jihadist forums February 22, claimed credit for a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device suicide attack on a police camp in the Hamar Jabjab district of Mogadishu that killed fifteen people, including the four bombers. The second release, published February 23, included 21 photographs of the body of a dead AMISOM soldier and military equipment seized by al Shabaab fighters after fighting in the Shingani district of Mogadishu.