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: Yemeni parliament passes amnesty law providing Saleh with complete immunity from prosecution; Saleh leaves Yemen en route to the United States for medical treatment; JMP and al Houthis reach cooperation agreement; Yemeni soldiers demand resignation of air force commander; political security prison commander assassinated; fighting breaks out between al Qaeda-linked militants and tribesmen in Rada’a; Yemeni tanks roll toward Rada’a; eight killed in Islamist attack on military facility in Ma’rib; fighting between suspected al Qaeda militants and the Yemeni military killed two Islamists
Horn of Africa: Kenyan and TFG troops clash with al Shabaab in southern Somalia; suspected al Qaeda member from London killed by U.S. drone strike; American man allegedly kidnapped by gunmen in Galkayo; fighting continues near ex-al Shabaab-controlled districts in Mogadishu; al Shabaab releases video confession from alleged CIA spy
Yemen Security Brief
- On January 21, the Yemeni parliament passed an amnesty law providing President Ali Abdullah Saleh with complete immunity from prosecution, as well as partial immunity for his top aides. According to the law, the aides cannot be prosecuted for "actions that were politically motivated and carried out in the exercise of their duties." Tens of thousands of angry protesters gathered in Tagheer (Change) Square in the capital Sana’a, condemning the law and chanting: “It is our duty…to execute the butcher.” They called on parliament to reverse its decision.
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen on January 22 for Oman, en route to New York, where he will receive medical treatment for injuries sustained in the June 2011 bombing attack on his presidential compound. In a statement, the State Department said, “Ali Abdullah Saleh's request to travel to the U.S. for medical treatment has been approved. As we have indicated, the sole purpose of this travel is for medical treatment and we expect that he will stay for a limited time that corresponds to the duration of this treatment.” Saleh announced in a televised address that he would return to Yemen, but not as the president of the country, only as the leader of the General People’s Congress. In his speech, he asked “for forgiveness from all sons of the nation, women and men, for any shortcomings during my 33 years in office." He asked that all protesters return to their homes and move on with their lives; however, anti-Saleh protests continued. Youth leader and activist Walid Ammar in Sana’a said, “We will not celebrate until Saleh is tried.”
- The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), the umbrella organization of the opposition, reached an agreement with the al Houthis on January 22. In the agreement, the sides agreed to cooperate in constructing a new Yemen and to “keep away” from issues that would divide them.
- On January 22, hundreds of Yemeni officers and soldiers gathered in Sana’a International Airport, demanding the resignation of the commander of the air force, Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, half-brother of President Ali Abdullah Saleh They complain that al Ahmar denied them their rights, as well as access to promotions and better wages. Units of Central Security and Special Guard Forces were dispatched to the airport, but Major General Ahmed Ali al Ashwal, the chief of staff, urged them not to use force against the protesting soldiers.
- The commander of a political security prison in Sana’a, Saleh al Jabri, was assassinated in Dhamar. He was shot by gunmen outside of Dhamar Hospital. The gunmen are believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda.
- On January 20, fighting erupted between al-Qaeda linked militants and tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Muhammad al Awbli in Rada’a. The latter were able to prevent the former from their expanding their presence in the town, which included an attempt to storm a prison in the southern part of the city that contains many al Qaeda suspects. The Islamists also attempted to seize a hospital, which is on the strategic Rada’a – Juban Road (which links al Bayda and al Dhaleh governorates). Tribesmen formed committees to protect neighborhoods from the militants. Five combatants, including four tribesmen, were killed and eight, including 6 Islamist militants, were wounded in the fighting; one civilian was killed and another wounded. The al Qaeda-linked militants attempted to arrest al Awbli, accusing him of “witchcraft and sorcery.”
- Tanks and armored vehicles advanced on Rada’a, controlled by al Qaeda-linked militants, after talks with militant leader Tareq al Dhahab broke down. According to one eyewitness, “As we were leaving Radda we saw 15 tanks and more than 20 armored vehicles heading for one of the military bases on the west side of town.” Tribesmen were reportedly preparing to fight the Islamist militants; in the words of one of them, “[T]he situation could explode at any moment.”
- On January 22, seven militants, believed to be linked to al Qaeda, were killed in an attempt to storm a military facility in Ma’rib governorate. One soldier was also killed.
- Two militants, suspected to be linked to al Qaeda, were killed in clashes with Yemeni soldiers in Zinjibar on January 21.
- Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir confirmed that one Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldier and two Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers were killed by al Shabaab militants in a raid in Hosingow and Delbio in southern Somalia on January 22. He also added that 11 al Shabaab militants were killed during the battles.
- Bilal al Berjawi, a suspected al Qaeda operative of Lebanese descent from London, was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike on his car in Elasha Biyaha outside of Mogadishu on January 21. An al Shabaab spokesman told reporters that Barjawi, aka Abu Hafsa, was closely associated with senior al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was killed in Mogadishu last year.
- Gunmen allegedly kidnapped an American in Galkayo, Puntland on January 21. Somali policeman Abdi Hassan Nur reported that gunmen surrounded the American man’s car after he left the airport and forced him to enter another vehicle.
- Local witnesses say that African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and TFG troops were ambushed late on January 21 by al Shabaab militants in Daynile, Heliwa, Dharkenley, and Yaqshid districts who were attempting to retake bases recently seized by the AMISOM and TFG. A TFG military official reported that six al Shabaab militants were killed and four others wounded.
- On January 20, eyewitnesses reported clashes between TFG troops, backed by AMISOM, and al Shabaab militants in Karan and Heliwa districts in Mogadishu. Ten civilians were reportedly killed by mortars and 15 people were injured.
- Al Shabaab released a video confession from an alleged spy for the CIA, Ahmad Ali Hussein, through its media wing al Kata’ib Media Foundation on January 18. In the video, Hussein explains how he was approached by the CIA and his assignments to gather intelligence on fighters and report on funding sources for al Shabaab. He was reportedly executed in late January or early February 2011.