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: Said al Shihri reported killed; explosion in AQAP bomb maker’s house kills militants; four drone strikes kill and wound number of al Qaeda suspects; IRGC reported to train Houthi rebels in Eritrea; Yemeni armed forces begin campaign against AQAP in al Bayda; soldiers of 30th Republican Guard Brigade expel commander; Hadi asks al Ahmar to help resolve dispute in Hajjah governorate; Yemeni intelligence searching for AQ car bombs; riots in central prison in Hajjah; militants blow up oil pipeline in Shabwah; popular resistance committees in Abyan assist in escape of five prisoners accused of murder; Tahama gunmen seize cars and trucks belonging to Hayma tribe; gunman opens fire on Hajjah police headquarters; military commission gives Ma’rib and Sana’a governors three days to clear Sana’a-Ma’rib road of illegal checkpoints; al Jazeera crew attacked in Dhamar; southern students withdraw from Police and Naval Colleges; individuals break into Salafi party headquarters; assailant throws hand grenade in Taiz market; University of Taiz faculty on total strike; former Interior Minister escapes assassination attempt in Sana’a; Yemeni security forces arrest 5 Somalis suspected of links to al Qaeda in Jayshan district, Abyan governorate
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants attack Somali and AMISOM troops in Afmadow, Lower Jubba region; Somali security forces arrest four, confiscate five grenades in Luq, Gedo region; Somali government soldier shoots a civilian in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle; suspected suicide bomber blows himself up in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region; German court indicts German national for links to al Qaeda and al Shabaab; al Shabaab releases 14 of 17 detained elders in Diri, Galgudud region; a security and development committee is formed in Beledweyne, Hiraan region; Somali president attends Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Somali president speaks to Somali Diaspora in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says 1,000 troops trained for Mogadishu security; hundreds of Somalis rally outside Villa Somalia, Mogadishu to support U.S. recognition of Somali government; Human Rights Watch urges Kenya to stop forcing Somali refugees out of cities
Yemen Security Brief
- Said al Shihri, the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was reported dead on January 22 by Saudi newspaper al Arabiya. Shihri had been in a coma after being injured in a U.S. airstrike in December 2012, according to the source.
- An explosion in the house of a known member of AQAP, Ahmed Abdullah Deifullah al Dhahab, killed a number of suspected AQAP militants in al Manaseh district, al Bayda governorate on January 19. The number of militants reported killed and wounded in the blast has ranged from three to 16. It is suspected that the house was being used as a bomb-making factory.
- Three airstrikes killed and wounded a number of suspected AQAP militants in Wadi Abeida, Ma’rib governorate on January 19. The number killed ranged from eight to nine across various reports, including two Saudis, and one of the deceased has been identified as Ismaeel Bin Saeed Bin Jameel, a known AQAP militant whose brother had been killed fighting in Abyan governorate. Both airstrikes targeted cars, and they came after another airstrike, also on Saturday, missed its target and injured no one in al Daleel district.
- An airstrike killed between two and four AQAP members in al ‘Atifa, Ma’rib governorate on January 21. Three names of the deceased were reported by local sources, including Ali Saleh Toaiman and Qassim Nasser Toaiman, suspected AQAP members who had been released from prison in April 2012 and were believed to have participated in operations in Abyan province, and Ahmed al Ziadi, a local AQAP commander. Reports stated that others were wounded, including one identified as “al Qobani.”
- The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been training Houthi rebels in Eritrea, in addition to smuggling weapons shipped from Iran to Sa’ada governorate via a small island off of the coast of Eritrea, according to multiple Yemeni diplomatic and political sources in an article published in Nation Yemen and Asharq Al Awsat on January 21. The Eritrean ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mohammad ‘Amr Mohammad, later denied this report.
- Sources reported that the Yemeni military began a major military campaign against AQAP in al Bayda governorate on January 22, deploying tanks and armored vehicles to the area. The campaign is being led by Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Technical Affairs Staff Major General Mohammad Ali al Maqdashi and military commanders in the governorate.
- Soldiers of the 30th Republican Guard Brigade expelled their commander, Brigadier General Ahmad Shamlan, south of the city of Ibb on January 20. Soldiers were protesting over pay issues and accusations of nepotism and corruption within brigade leadership. Soldiers from the same brigade also expelled a committee led by Abdul Malik al Ahrar sent to mediate between the soldiers and their leadership on January 21. Sources reported on January 22 that the Ministry of Defense had decided to appoint another, unidentified brigade commander.
- President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi asked Major General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar on January 22 to help resolve a dispute between the governor of Hajjah governorate, Ali bin Ali al Qaisi, and Brigadier General Abdul Malik al Midani, after al Qaisi refused to implement the central government’s decision to appoint al Midani as director of security for Hajjah governorate. Al Qaisi has been accused of attempting to incite chaos and organizing armed groups against al Midani’s appointment. 
- Yemeni intelligence authorities are reportedly searching for a number of car bombs prepared by AQAP to attack infrastructure in major Yemeni cities. Intelligence sources said that they have credible intelligence about such bombs, and were searching for them outside of the cities.
- A riot over poor nutrition and living conditions broke out in the central prison in Hajjah governorate on January 20. At least ten inmates were wounded when security forces entered the prison using live ammunition and teargas. One soldier was also killed.
- Unknown militants blew up an oil pipeline in Shabwah governorate belonging to the Korean National Oil Corporation on January 18.
- Popular Resistance Committees (PRCs) in Abyan governorate assisted in the escape of five prisoners from Zinjibar’s central prison on January 20. Sources confirmed that at least one of the prisoners was a PRC member involved in a murder, and that the Abyan PRCs had been involved in a number of other murders over the last years. In response to these accusations, governor of Abyan province Jamal al ‘Aqel formed a committee to investigate the PRCs.
- Gunmen from the Tahama tribe seized more than one hundred cars and ten trucks belonging to the Hayma tribe in Sana’a province on January 18, in reaction to the Hayma’s tribe past seizure of its own vehicles. Tahama Sheiksh affirmed that they had mounted checkpoints at the province’s entrances and were seizing all Hayma vehicles that passed through. They said that they would not release the seized cars until the Hayma tribe did the same.
- Unknown gunmen opened fire on Hajjah governorate’s police headquarters on January 20 in Hajjah city, wounding two soldiers and two civilians.
- Yemen’s Military Commission gave the governors of Ma’rib and Sana’a governorates and military commanders three days to remove all illegal checkpoints on the Sana’a-Ma’rib road. This was announced in a meeting on January 21 headed by Interior Minister Major General Dr. Abdul Qader Mohammad Qahtan and Advisor to the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Staff Major General Mohammad Ali al Qasmi.
- An al Jazeera crew’s car was attacked by unknown assailants in Dhamar city, Dhamar governorate, Yemen while they were conducting interviews with protesters on January 20.
- Over 290 students from Yemen’s southern governorates studying at the Police College in Sana’a and Naval College in Hudaydah failed to return to the schools after their winter vacation. In a statement, southern students from the Police College complained of racism and discrimination among faculty and administration toward southerners.
- Unknown individuals broke into the headquarters of the Salafist Movement for Freedom and Building on ‘Aib street, in Ibb, Ibb governorate, stealing computers and internal party documents on January 21.
- An unknown assailant threw a hand grenade into a market in central Taiz on January 20, wounding three.
- Faculty at the University of Taiz went on a total strike on January 19, protesting perceived corruption among university leadership.
- Former Yemeni Interior Minister Hussein Mohammad Arab escaped an assassination attempt in Sana’a on January 19. While the attempt was confirmed by security sources, details are still forthcoming.
- President Hadi was present for the opening of the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on January 21.
- Yemeni security forces arrested five Somalis suspected of links to Al Qaeda on January 18 in Jayshan district, Abyan governorate. The Somalis were carrying forged Aden governorate ID cards.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants attacked Somali and AMISOM troops in the town of Afmadow, Lower Jubba region on January 19. Seven total casualties, including civilians, have been reported. Somali officials say they repulsed the al Shabaab attack and al Shabaab leaders say they killed many Somali and Kenyan soldiers.
- Somali security forces arrested four suspected al Shabaab militants and confiscated five grenades outside Luq, Gedo region on January 21. The militants were arrested during a routine check outside of the town. One suspect told Somali officials that the grenades were going to be used to carry out terrorist attacks against high-level government personnel in Luq.
- A Somali government soldier shot and killed a taxi driver in the town of Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region on January 20. The two men were said to be fighting, but the motivation behind the murder is not known. The Somali army soldier was immediately arrested by other Somali troops.
- A suspected suicide bomber killed himself after his explosives accidentally went off in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region in January 21. No one else was injured in the explosion and the target and motive behind the botched terrorist attack is not known.
- A German court on January 21 indicted a German national on counts of terrorism. Emrah Erdogan joined an al Qaeda training camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in May 2010 and was then sent to Somalia in 2011 where he led attacks that killed several Ethiopian troops. He is also being indicted for murder, robbery and pretending to carry out a terrorist attack in Germany in 2010.Erdogan was arrested in Tanzania in June 2012, and was subsequently deported to Germany.
- Al Shabaab released fourteen traditional elders from a militant-run detention center in Diri, Galgudud region on January 21. Seventeen elders were previously arrested for not providing 220 camels to al Shabaab. The fate of the remaining three detained elders is not known.
- A special committee focused on increasing security and development in the Hiraan region was created in Beledweyne, Hiraan region on January 20. The committee is made up of 60 members drawn from four different districts in Beledweyne.
- Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on January 20 to attend the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit. President Mohamud met with the Yemeni president, the Lebanese prime minister and the Iranian vice president.
- During a speech to the Somali Diaspora in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 18, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told the community about security improvements in Somalia. He said that 1,000 special security forces are being deployed around Mogadishu in order to increase security in the capital. He also said six million dollars has been set aside for Mogadishu security and encouraged the Somali natives to give money to make Mogadishu safer.
- Hundreds of Somalis rallied outside Villa Somalia, Mogadishu on January 21 to show their support for the U.S. decision to recognize the Somali government. Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon was in attendance.
- Human Rights Watch urged Kenyan officials to stop forcing Somali refugees out of Kenyan cities and in to refugee camps. The Kenyan government asserts that the mass movement will make Kenyan cities safer. Human rights watch said moving 55,000 Somalis would violate refugee rights, unlawfully evict people from their homes and decrease the quality of life for these refugees because the camps are already overcrowded.