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: Yemen Ministry of Defense announces new brigade-level military appointments; President Obama announces John Brennan as nominee for Director of CIA; Yemen security forces carry out broad security sweeps in Sana’a; Yemeni court sentences five al Qaeda operatives; gunmen attack students in Hajjah province; Yemen Army expels al Qaeda operatives from Mahfad, Abyan; Iranian ambassador denies allegations that Iran was running a spy ring in Yemen; Saudi Arabia officials deny claims of Saudi drone activity in Yemen; protests occur in Sana’a; man charged with being Israeli spy in Yemen
Horn of Africa: AMISOM troops capture al Shabaab base outside Bali Doogle, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab militants ambush Somali and AMISOM convoys in Gedo region; al Shabaab spokesman says al Shabaab will move bases to Puntland; spokesman for Omar Hammami denounces al Shabaab leadership; grenade attack occurs in Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya; unknown gunmen attack Puntland security minister in Boosaaso, Bari region; Somali soldier shoots a civilian in Dolow, Gedo region; unknown gunmen shoot businessman in Las Anod, Sool region; Kenyan ministers threaten to resign over mistreatment of Somalis in Eastleigh, Kenya; UN report states al Shabaab and Ugandan Allied Defense Forces developed a connection; security measures in Mogadishu and at Aden Adde airport are discussed; many protest Puntland administration in Qardho, Bari region
Yemen Security Brief
- According to a high-level source in the Yemeni Ministry of Defense, on January 4 the Yemeni Defense Minister announced a number of new brigade-level military appointments, including Brigadier General Hamid al Qadimi, who will assume command of the Hajjah Brigade, Colonel Abdul Wahab Qa’ashim who will assume command of the 101st Infantry Brigade, Colonel Abdullah Mikhalfi who will serve on the staff of the 314th Presidential Protection Brigade (also known as the 4th Brigade), and Colonel Mohammad Yahya al Ali who will serve on the staff of the 35th Brigade.
- On January 7, President Obama nominated John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan currently serves as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, a position in which he has been central to the Obama Administration’s campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.
- Yemen security forces conducted broad security sweeps throughout Sana’a as well as other governorates from January 5 to January 7. During the operations, unlicensed motorbikes and arms were confiscated. Following the three days of searches, 500 motorbikes and 50 weapons were taken. Forty security officials were killed in 2012 due to shootings from motorbikes.
- A Yemeni court sentenced five al Qaeda operatives to four to ten years in prison for carrying out attacks against security officials as well as giving logistical support to the terrorist organization in Abyan governorate. Six other al Qaeda militants were set free after 18 months in prison. The court said they supported al Qaeda but were not behind the attacks.
- On January 6, gunmen attacked students at the Abs Management College in Hajjah Province. Students were protesting against the recent appointment of a dean from outside the college by the college’s president, and demanded the appointment of a dean from within the college itself. The dean of the college was accused of colluding with the gunmen.
- A Yemeni Army battalion, in cooperation with Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) forces expelled al Qaeda militants from positions in the Mahfad district of Abyan Governorate. The Army and PRC forces continue to pursue militants who escaped in the initial operation.
- Iranian ambassador to Yemen, Mahmoud Hassan Zadeh, denied claims that Iran was running a spy ring in Yemen during a press conference at the Iranian embassy in Sana’a on January 7. He asked the Yemeni government to provide proof of its claim. Ambassador Zadeh said accusations like this severely hurt the relationship between Iran and Yemen.
- Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal released a statement denying the claims that Saudi Arabia is deploying drones in Yemen. He admitted that there may be Saudi intelligence work against al Qaeda occurring in Yemen, but said that does not include drones.
- On January 3, protesters demonstrated in Sana’a, calling on President Hadi to implement the proposed restructuring of the army faster. 
- Ibrahim al Dharahi, a young computer engineer, has been charged with spying for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, according to reports from the Yemeni Defense Ministry on January 4. He was arrested in December 2012 in Taiz carrying Yemeni and Israeli identification. Israel’s Foreign Minister has denied knowledge of Dharahi.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- AMISOM troops captured an al Shabaab base outside of Bali Doogle, Lower Shabelle region on January 5. The takeover occurred after AMISOM troops staged an ambush on the road from Bali Doogle to Lego. AMISOM forces followed the militants back to a hideout in the middle of the jungle. Four sub-machine guns as well as ammunition for a rocket-propelled grenade were found. Exact casualties from the incident are not known but militant deaths have been reported.
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed Somali and AMISOM troops traveling between Luq and Garbaharey, Gedo region on January 6. Somali and AMISOM troops were headed toward two towns still controlled by al Shabaab, Bardhere and Burdubo, Gedo region. There are conflicting reports on casualties from both sides of the fight. Somali commanders say their fighters killed 24 al Shabaab troops, while the Somalis suffered two casualties. Al Shabaab commanders say their soldiers killed 11 Somali troops.
- Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage, also known as Ali Dhere, released an audio recording on January 6 saying that al Shabaab plans to move its bases to Puntland. Rage said al Shabaab will “destroy” the Puntland government and implement Islamic law throughout the area. He called on people in Puntland to support al Shabaab’s cause and help it defeat the Puntland and Somali government. Rage also added that he does not think security is improving in Mogadishu. 
- A spokesman for American-born al Shabaab militant Omar Hammami released a series of messages on Twitter on January 5 speaking out against the al Shabaab leadership. He said that the al Shabaab leadership is discriminatory towards foreigners and also steals money from its soldiers.
- A grenade attack from a moving vehicle occurred in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya on January 4. Two children were killed and seven others were injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Unknown gunmen attacked a hotel on January 4 in Boosaaso, Bari region, where Puntland Security Minister Khalif Isse Mudan was staying. Casualties from the incident are not known, however the minister was unharmed. Puntland security forces conducted searches in Boosaaso following the attack. Several people were arrested during the operation but an exact count has not been reported.
- A Somali government soldier shot and killed a civilian in the town of Dolow, Gedo region on January 6. The reason behind the attack is believed to be clan-based violence. The soldier fled the scene and has not yet been caught.
- Unknown gunmen shot a prominent businessman in Las Anod, Sool region on January 6. Two assailants approached the man and shot him several times in the head. Doctors in a local hospital are trying to save his life. The two gunmen were caught, but the reason behind the attack is still not known.
- Kenyan Defense Minister Yusuf Haji and Northern Kenya Development Minister Mohammed Elmi have threatened to resign because of the harassment of ethnic Somalis in Eastleigh, Kenya. Defense Minister Haji accused police officers of harassment and extortion and called for the immediate transfer of all security personnel currently stationed in Eastleigh.
- A new UN report released said the Ugandan rebel group Allied Democratic Forces have developed a connection with the Somali terrorist organization al Shabaab. Both groups are hoping to spread their influence throughout the region.
- Leaders in Mogadishu met in January 6 to discuss increasing security measures at Aden Adde International airport in Mogadishu. They hope to increase security services at the airport so that they comply with international regulations. Additionally, Somali Cabinet members met to discuss ways to strengthen security throughout Mogadishu.
- Protests took place in Qardho, Bari region on January 7. Many people took to the streets to protest the supposed extension of President Abdirahman Farole’s presidency, which is supposed to end on January 8. The protestors are demanding immediate elections to replace the current administration and they say they will not stop until political change occurs.