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: Controversial amnesty law amended; AQAP issues fatwa against al Houthis; Ansar al Sharia commander Tareq al Dhahab hopes to establish shari’a law in Rada’a; Dhahab says Rada’a is only the first step in the establishment of an Islamic caliphate; thousands of tribesmen condemn government’s weakness in Rada’a march; three people injured in al Dhaleh prison riot
Horn of Africa: Twenty al Shabaab fighters killed in Kismayo airstrikes; bomb explodes in Mogadishu refugee camp; Medicins Sans Frontieres closes medical centers in Mogadishu; Somalia’s ambassador to the U.S. urges that captured pirate be tried in Somalia; delegation of Somali parliamentarians visits Kenya; TFG-allied militias take a village in the Bakool region from al Shabaab; al Shabaab releases identities of two Kenyan hostages, releases a third
Yemen Security Brief
- A controversial amnesty law, which would give immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his associates from prosecution, has been amended. In the new version, Saleh’s aides will only be protected in “political cases,” according to Yemeni Legal Affairs Minister Mohammad Mikhlafi.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) issued a fatwa against the al Houthi rebels on January 18. “The Houthis are a sect that does not commit to the rulings of Shariah, and attacks Muslims with weapons…Therefore, the blood of whoever belongs to the combatant Houthi Rafidah [Shi'ites] is permissible and he must be killed wherever he is..." Among other things, AQAP accuses the Zaydi Shiite militant group of “[s]landering the honor of the Prophet” and “[i]mposing the Shi’a Rafidah [“refuser”; this refers to Shia, who reject the legitimacy of the caliphates of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman] school of thought upon Muslims by the power of weapons.” Fighting the Houthis is “an obligation for every capable Muslim” and is “considered in Shariah as the jihad of defense.”
- In an exclusive interview with Yemeni newspaper al Masdar Online, Tareq al Dhahab, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked militants now in control of Rada’a, said the objective of taking the town is to reestablish the Amiriya religious school and mosque, which were closed 14 years ago, and to establish a religious people’s council (majlis ahl al hal al ‘aqid) that would resolve the affairs of the residents of Rada’a. He also added that he wants 400 political prisoners released, stressing that they had been arbitrarily detained in the first place and had received no trial.
- Tareq al Dhahab declared in a video message that the capture of Rada’a is only the beginning of the creation of an Islamic caliphate, an eventuality for which he called on all Muslims to unite. Dhahab also vowed to “liberate” the entire Arabian Peninsula.
- Thousands of tribesmen marched in Rada’a on January 18, decrying the government’s weak response to the town’s takeover by al Qaeda-linked militants. They claimed that Saleh had colluded with the Islamists.
- Prison protests in al Dhaleh governorate injured three prisoners, who were fired upon with bullets and tear gas. Some of the prisoners attempted to light themselves on fire. The same prison has seen protests for the last month demanding justice and decrying the lack of fair trials.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Airstrikes were reported in the suburbs of Kismayo, in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region.Twenty al Shabaab militants, medics, as well as one civilian were reportedly killed according to unidentified witnesses. The strike took place on a medical center that was treating al Shabaab fighters.
- A bomb exploded in a refugee camp in Mogadishu only twenty minutes after UN officials and international journalists had left the scene. Two Somalis were killed in the attack, which is suspected to have been the work of al Shabaab.
- Medicins Sans Frontieres closed two of its medical centers in Mogadishu, following the murder of two of its employees last month.
- Somalia’s ambassador to the United States, Elmi Ahmed Duale, said that a Somali pirate, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, captured by the FBI last year should be tried in Somalia, rather than in Virginia. He argued that Shibin, allegedly the highest-ranking pirate yet captured, was on Somali land, rather than in international waters, when he was captured by the FBI. Shibin is accused of helping to decide how much ransom was to be requested after the capture of four Americans, all of whom were subsequently killed.
- A delegation of Somali parliamentarians visited Kenya to discuss developments in the war against al Shabaab, rules of engagement of foreign forces in Somali territory, and ways to cooperate to alleviate the Somali refugee crisis.
- Militias allied with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) captured the village of Kessow, in the Bakool region, wresting it from the control of al Shabaab. TFG officials claim that they have successfully driven al Shabaab from most of the Kessow area.
- On January 18, al Shabaab released the identities of two Kenyan hostages that it captured in its January 12 attack on a police outpost in Wajir, Kenya. The two men are Mule Edward Yesse, a district officer, and Frederick Irungu Wainaina, a registration clerk at the Kenyan Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Person. Al Shabaab did not mention ransom demands, nor did they speak of the prisoners’ conditions. The other man taken prisoner by al Shabaab, Mohamed Deqh, a driver, returned to Wajir on January 18. He said that he and the other prisoners were not tortured, but they were blindfolded most of the time. He was released on January 14 and walked about 45 miles over 5 days back to Wajir.