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: AQAP declares war on al Houthis; four AQAP fighters sentenced to three to five years in prison; security forces arrest six AQAP militants; AQAP gunmen kill one soldier in ambush; opposition groups declare February 3 “Day of Anger”; Defense Ministry denies rumors that President Saleh’s son appointed commander of infantry division; hundreds protest after police beat U.S. citizen to death during traffic stop; security official targeted in AQAP ambush in Abyan; riot police attack demonstrators during small rally in Sana’a
Horn of Africa: AMISOM seeks mandate from UN allowing offensive actions, requests five attack helicopters; clash between TFG soldiers and police in Mogadishu leaves 16 people dead; fighting between al Shabaab militants and TFG and AMISOM soldiers kills ten; Ethiopian military provides Ahlu Sunna with weapons; quarrel amongst TFG soldiers leaves one soldier dead; al Shabaab spokesman announces execution of Somali man suspected of spying for the FBI; al Shabaab fighters impose curfew; al Shabaab militants release twelve boys from jail; Galmudug administration police arrest dozens suspected of causing unrest; explosion in Somaliland capital kills one; mutilated bodies of two teenage men discovered in Mogadishu; TFG foreign minister says that responsibility for creating new government lies with the Somali people
Yemen Security Brief
- The deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Said al Shihri, also known as Abu Sufyan, released an audio message entitled “You Were Granted Victory, O People of the Sunnah,” on jihadist forums, in which he called upon Sunnis to declare war on the al Houthis in northern Yemen. Sufyan warned that the Yemeni government’s focus on AQAP had given the al Houthis time to prepare and join forces with the larger “Zio-Crusader alliance” that, together with Iran, seeks to destroy the Sunni people.
- A Yemeni court in Hadramawt governorate sentenced four suspected AQAP fighters to prison terms ranging from three to five years for conspiring to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia to join al Qaeda affiliated groups. The four were also convicted of providing shelter to foreign terrorists operating in Yemen.
- Yemeni security forces arrested six suspected AQAP militants believed to have been behind a January 26, 2011 attack in Hadramawt governorate in which gunmen killed four soldiers and a postal official before making off with approximately $50,000.
- Gunmen believed to be loyal to AQAP fired on a security patrol in the al Erqain district of Ma’rib governorate, killing one soldier and injuring four more before escaping in a vehicle.
- Mohammed Saleh, spokesman of opposition group the Joint Meeting Parties, told the Yemen Times that February 3 will be a “Day of Anger” and that protests have been organized across Yemen, adding that “it will be huge, all over the country.” The announcement follows the collapse of anticipated talks between the ruling party and opposition groups. Yaseen Saeed No’man, general secretary of the Socialist Party opposition group and a member of the National Dialogue Committee, said that the talks were intended only to “waste time” and concluded, “the dialogue has stopped. It was only media talk…and nothing official.”
- SABA Net, Yemen’s News Agency, citing a source at the Defense Ministry, reported that rumors that President Saleh’s son Khalid Ali Abudullah Saleh had been placed in charge of the Mountain Infantry Division, a unit composed of three brigades stationed at different locations around Sana’a, were false.
- Approximately four hundred people turned out in protest in the southwestern city of Ibb after traffic police beat Hamoud Darmoosh, an American citizen, to death following his failure to comply with their requests. Darmoosh’s uncle and other members of his family have organized a sit-in at the local morgue, and are refusing to allow officials to bury Darmoosh until the police officers responsible have been brought to justice. The three traffic officers involved are currently incarcerated at the Central Prison.
- Ahmed Ghaleb Rahawi, a senior security official in Abyan governorate, was the target of an ambush carried out by suspected AQAP militants. Rahawi was not actually in his vehicle when gunmen opened fire, although his son and eldest daughter were injured.
- Riot police attacked protestors with batons during a small protest in Sana’a, injuring multiple demonstrators. The protest originated at the headquarters of several local journalists, and expressed solidarity with demonstrators in Egypt and called on Yemeni President Saleh to “leave while there is still a chance.” Witnesses told the Wall Street Journal that human rights activist Abdul Hadi al Azazi was arrested.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, speaking at a news conference in Ethiopia, announced that the AU would seek to provide AMISOM forces with an attacking mandate that would allow them to confront Somalia rebels directly rather than waiting to be attacked, saying “we are ready to attack if we have permission from the United Nations’ Security Council.” Ping added that the AU had also requested five helicopter gunships for AMISOM and told reporters that Guinea had committed to deploying one or two battalions to Somalia.
- Clashes between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers and police left 16 people dead in Mogadishu. Witnesses reported that the fighting began when police executed a plainclothes soldier thought to be a rebel fighter and the soldier’s comrades arrived and opened fire on police. Mohamed Yusuf, director of nearby Banadir Hospital, reported that thirty people were injured and some of the dead were wearing uniforms while others were civilians, including three women.
- Garowe Radio reported that fighting between al Shabaab militants and TFG and AMISOM soldiers killed at least ten people in the Bondhere, Hodan, and Hawl Wadag districts of Mogadishu. Witnesses also reported that stray artillery shells landed in the northern Wardhigley and Yaqshid districts, killing three civilians.
- Shabelle reports that Ethiopian military officers traveled to the Balanbal district of the Galgudud region where they met with fighters from Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a, an Islamist group perceived to be more moderate than al Shabaab, and handed over weapons to the group before returning to Ethiopia.
- TFG soldiers in the Hamar Weyne district of Mogadishu fought amongst themselves, resulting in the death of one soldier following an exchange of gunfire and RPGs. The arrival of more TFG soldiers quickly restored order, but what caused the conflict remains unknown.
- Sheikh Ali Mohammed Hussein, al Shabaab’s chairman in the Banadir region, announced that al Shabaab fighters executed Ahmed Ali Hussein after he confessed to spying for the FBI. The killing took place publicly in a Mogadishu square. Hussein warned others against spying on al Shabaab, telling a Mogadishu radio station, “We know there are some men wearing the shirt of Islam, but they would be revealed as this man.”
- Al Shabaab militants in central Galgudud’s Elbur district have imposed a curfew on the local populace, citing a need for increased security measures in the area. Locals report that six people have already been arrested for violating the curfew.
- Fighters loyal to al Shabaab in the Elbur district of the central Galgudud region released twelve boys from prison after local elders pleaded with the militants to be merciful.
- Abdi Hassan, a police officer in the Galgudud region, announced that security forces loyal to the Galmudug administration had arrested dozens of people in the town of Galkayo suspected of being involved in the recent wave of violence in the area.
- An explosion at a soccer stadium in Hargeisa, the capital of the separatist region of Somaliland, killed one man and wounded two others. Citing local reports, Radio Garowe said that the bomb was placed by “a group of men” who then drove away and the young men discovered the explosive device and “played” with it for a few minutes before it detonated.
- The bodies of two teenage men were found in TFG-controlled Wadajir district of Mogadishu. Locals reported that both bodies showed signs of torture and efforts to identify the bodies have thus far been unsuccessful.
- TFG foreign minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar declared while the people of Somalia were “very grateful” for the support of international community thus far, “the buck stops with us” and the ultimate responsibility for creating a new government rested with the people, adding that “we have to come forward with plans and proposals that will be supported not only and primarily by the people of Somalia, but also that are acceptable to the international community.”