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: Saleh to announce plans for coalition government; security forces kill at least seven protestors in Aden; five people injured in Hadramawt protest; JMP calls for protest; two tribal leaders withdraw support from Saleh, other tribal leaders pledge allegiance to regime; AQAP attacks kill three soldiers; al Houthi supporters join protestors at Sana’a University; AQAP leader releases tape calling for revolution across the Arab world; security forces arrest five Southern Movement leaders; Saleh meets with supporters, armed forces leaders and GPC MPs; interior minister discusses security cooperation with British diplomat; Yemeni government blocks access to independent news website, expels two journalists; one inmate killed in prison riot
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab communiqués claim victory over TFG and Ethiopian troops, display Burundian POW; al Shabaab targets Kenya; mortar kills two civilians in Bakara Market; Burundian official claims eighty al Shabaab militants have been killed, AP estimates death toll to be at least 115 people; Puntland police arrest at least twenty people; al Shabaab prepares for attack in Beled Hawo; TFG and foreign officials meet at peace conference; Kenyan soldiers seal border near Beled Hawo; TFG President visits front lines; chairman of drought relief commissioner claims TFG soldiers block distribution of aid; clerics claim they are working to negotiate peace between TFG and al Shabaab
Yemen Security Brief
- Al Jazeera reported that President Saleh is set to announce the formation of a coalition government “within the next 24 hours,” adding that the move will take place even if major opposition groups refuse to join. SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, reported that Saleh met with leading Yemeni Islamic scholars and asked them to convey a new package of reforms to the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). The reforms included a promise to submit proposed constitutional reforms to parliament for approval, a revision of electoral law and regulations, and an offer to form a government of national unity. The offer is conditional on opposition groups ending protests and sit-ins and ceasing “media campaigns and incitement.” JMP spokesman Mohamed al Sabry announced that the opposition will not join any unity government proposed by President Saleh, saying that “the opposition decided to stand with the people’s demand for the fall of the regime, and there is no going back from that.”
- A massive anti-government demonstration in Aden February 25 left at least seven people dead after security forces and demonstrators clashed. The day before, Saleh had decreed that security forces should only fire on demonstrators in the case of self-defense. At least 50 other people were wounded in clashes. Amnesty International reported that Yemeni security forces blocked access to medical care and refused to allow doctors to assist injured protestors.
- Five people were injured when riot police attempted to disperse a crowd of protestors in Mukalla in Hadramawt governorate. A local official insisted that the protestors were not injured by police, but by “rioters with batons who infiltrated” the protest. In Mualla, security officials report that 18 protestors were injured in clashes.
- The JMP announced that it will hold protest rallies March 1. JMP leaders called for followers to support anti-government protestors throughout the country. This will be the first JMP-sanctioned rally since February 3.
- Sheikh Hussein bin Abdullah al Ahmar, a leader of the Hashid tribe and Chief of the National Alliance Council announced that Yemen’s two largest tribes, the Hashid and Bakeel tribes, have withdrawn their support for the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party and have joined the opposition. At least eleven other tribal leaders pledged their support for President Saleh.
- Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gunmen killed two soldiers in separate attacks in the city of Zinjibar in Abyan governorate. The Yemen Observer reported that two AQAP gunmen dressed in Central Security uniforms attacked the station on foot, killing one soldier before fleeing. After the initial assault, AQAP fighters followed and ambushed the military vehicle carrying the wounded to the hospital, killing another soldier. A third attack in Hadramawt killed Mohamed Hassan al Qerzi, a senior political security officer. Yemeni Interior Minister Mutahar al Masri told SABA News that the soldiers were killed while suppressing protests across the country, adding that the security services are obligated to protect protestors regardless of political affiliation.
- Hundreds of al Houthi supporters joined anti-government demonstrators at Sana’a University. The Yemen Post reported that Fares Mana’a, a prominent arms dealer who has served in the past as a mediator between the government and al Houthi officials, announced that he will sponsor an anti-government rally in Sa’ada.
- AQAP leader and former Guantanamo detainee (#192) Ibrahim al Rubaish released an audio tape on jihadist forums through AQAP’s media arm, al Malahem Foundation. In the message, Rubaish praised the people of Tunisia for overthrowing a “tyrant” and criticized Saudi Arabia for sheltering ousted leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Rubaish warned that unless shari’a law is established in all Muslim countries, corrupt and unjust leaders may take power. Finally, Rubaish called for all Muslims to continue rising up against their leaders and pointed to the success of al Shabaab in Somalia as an example of a successful jihad against the government.
- The Yemen Post reported that security forces arrested at least five Southern Movement leaders, including former diplomat Qassem Aksar, in the al Mansora district of Aden.
- President Saleh met with supporters across Yemen, including local leaders and officials in Abyan governorate, dignitaries from the Bani Hushaish district of Sana’a, MPs from the GPC party, and leaders of the armed forces. At each meeting, Saleh emphasized that the reforms he has offered are “designed to calm the situations and heal the rift between all political forces and maintain the security, stability and unity of the country,” but regrettably opposition leaders have refused to participate in political dialogue. Saleh’s personal website reported that Saleh emphasized the importance of the military in securing Yemen against foreign plots and domestic saboteurs. Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi also visited Aden and met with local council members to discuss growing unrest in the city. Hadi also inspected damage from recent riots and pledged to create new jobs for unemployed youths.
- SABA News reported that Yemeni Interior Minister Mutahar al Masri met with British deputy ambassador to Yemen Fiona Gibb and discussed cooperation between the two countries in the fields of counterterrorism and security.
- The Yemen Post reported that the Yemeni government expelled two journalists from al Jazeera on charges of exaggerating the unrest and inciting protests. The Yemen Times reported that government censors blocked access to al Masdar Online, a popular independent local news website, for the fifth time since protests began. Yaser al Arami, editor in chief of al Masdar, said that “the success of our website has annoyed the government.” 
- A prison riot inside the Central Prison in al Ghaidha left one person dead. Local sources told the Yemen Post that the riot erupted after inmates discovered that four prisoners had successfully escaped.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab issued three communiqués on jihadist forums through its media arm, the al Kata’ib Foundation for Media Production. The first release announced that al Shabaab fighters captured a Burundian soldier, the bodies of seven dead Burundians, and multiple light and medium weapons and ammunition. The communiqué included photos of the display and indicated that Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys attended the exhibition. Mogadishu Man, an independent blog reporting from Mogadishu, published a translated statement from the Burundian POW in which he warned that AMISOM will never defeat al Shabaab and urged AMISOM soldiers to stop shelling civilian areas in Mogadishu. The second and third communiqués claimed that al Shabaab militants in the Gedo and Hiraan regions defeated units of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian soldiers.
- Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage told reporters that al Shabaab officials have decided to target Kenya in retaliation for their support of AMISOM and Ethiopian soldiers, saying “Kenya has constantly disturbed us, and now it should face the consequences of allowing Ethiopian troops to attack us from Mandera town.” Kenyan Police Commissioner Matthew Iteera cautioned residents to be vigilant but announced that the police “have taken measures to provide adequate security.”
- A mortar round landed in Bakara Market and killed two civilians on February 28. Shabelle Media Network reported that there was sporadic fighting between AMISOM soldiers and al Shabaab militants in the Hodan district of Mogadishu but no casualties were reported. Al Shabaab's military spokesman, Abdul Aziz Abu Mus'ab claimed that al Shabaab fighters had destroyed several AMISOM vehicles in Mogadishu with shoulder-fired missiles.
- Colonel Bierk, spokesman of the Burundian element of the AMISOM force, told Shabelle Media Network that Burundian forces had killed over eighty al Shabaab militants during recent fighting surrounding the former Defense Ministry building on Warshadaha Street in Mogadishu. Bierk admitted that seven Burundian soldiers had been killed in the clashes. The Associated Press reported that at least 115 people have been killed in Somalia during the recent fighting.
- Puntland security officials arrested at least twenty people in the town of Galkayo in the Mudug region on suspicion of being involved in recent instability in the area. On February 26, Galkayo mayor Abirahman Haji Hassan resigned, citing security concerns.
- Shabelle Media Network reported that al Shabaab fighters are preparing for an attack on Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a militants and TFG soldiers in the area surrounding Beled Hawo. Local sources indicated that violence could break out at any moment.
- Officials from the TFG and the Pan-African Parliament met in Accra, Ghana, at a conference titled “The Role of the African Union in Support of the Djibouti Peace Process for Somalia” and discussed options for bringing stability and peace to Somalia.
- Kenyan soldiers sealed off the border between Kenya and Somalia in the area around the town of Beled Hawo.
- TFG President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed traveled to the front lines in Mogadishu and praised TFG and AMISOM soldiers for the success in recent offensives against al Shabaab militants.
- Ibrahim Nur Habeb, chairman of the drought relief commission, told Shabelle Media Network that TFG soldiers had prevented relief workers from delivering food to nearly 600 needy families in Mogadishu.
- Sheikh Basher Ahmed Salad, chairman of the Organization of Somali Clerics, told Shabelle Media Network that the organization had attempted to broker peace between al Shabaab leaders and TFG officials but had been rebuffed by al Shabaab extremists, adding that they would continue to try and negotiate a peaceful solution in Somalia.