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: Clashes in Taiz kills four Republican Guards soldiers; Yemeni security forces continue operations in Nihm district; Yemeni airstrikes kill two civilians in Jaar; government forms youth militias to fight al Qaeda in south; army brigade calls for assistance in Zinjibar; protestors demand ouster of President Saleh; defected General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar rejects government proposal that keeps Saleh in power; Joint Meeting Parties discusses formation of transitional council; Yemeni police arrest al Haq’s Hassan Zaid
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab punishes four young men in Afgoi; rival militias clash in central Mudug region; Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a fights al Shabaab in Mogadishu; residents report aircraft over Kismayo; Somali president seeks to liberate Somalia; prime minister visits Mogadishu frontlines; prime minister reiterates commitment to fighting terrorists in Somalia; East African leaders call on UN to impose no-fly zone in Somalia
Yemen Security Brief
- Fighting erupted in Taiz when Yemeni security forces pushed northward. Four Republic Guard soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in the clashes. Local sources reported, “The Republican Guards have pounded the areas of al-Ajoud and al-Mesneh in Meklaf Sharab district and other areas in the district of al-Taezia with artillery and tanks.” A civilian was also killed and four others wounded, according to eyewitnesses. A roadside bomb killed three Republican Guard soldiers and wounded fourteen others on July 2 in Taiz governorate. A government official in Taiz blamed the attack on anti-government tribes. Local authorities in Taiz agreed to form a peace committee to implement the terms of a ceasefire on July 4. The Taiz local authority and Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) signed the ceasefire agreement in June to end armed conflict in Taiz streets and neighborhoods and return looted properties to their respective owners.
- The Republican Guard continued operations to the northeast of the capital, Sana’a, in Nihm district. One civilian was killed. Sporadic fighting has been reported in the surrounding districts of Arhab and Bani Matar.
- Yemeni airstrikes killed two civilians and wounded three others near Jaar in Abyan governorate, a local official said. The strikes targeted suspected al Qaeda militants in al Makhzan district. An official in the southern city of Aden reported, “Military aircraft carried out a number of strikes yesterday (Saturday) in the Al-Makhzan area at the entrance of Jaar…One of them hit the house of Omar Hassan, killing him and wounding three others.” The other civilian was killed in a separate strike.
- The Yemeni government has formed youth militias to fight al Qaeda-linked militants in the south. Officials said the move comes as Islamist militants begin to establish a stronger foothold in Aden. Authorities reported a new militant training camp and attempts by the militants to store arms in rented apartments. Yemeni security forces surrounded Aden on July 2, reported Defense Minister Muhammad Nasser Ahmed. Ahmed said, “Aden is really experiencing unusual circumstances due to the situations in nearby cities. The battles between the army and Al-Qaeda in Abyan have led to the killing and injuring of many terrorists, but at the same time have forced many families to flee to Aden…there are terrorist groups seeking to drag Aden into violence and to attack key public installations but the security forces will face them.” He said that the government will deploy tanks in mountainous areas to ensure that water supplies are distributed to districts in south Yemen.
- A Yemeni officer serving in the 25th Mechanised Brigade reported on July 2 that 50 soldiers under his command went missing after clashes with al Qaeda-linked militants at a sports stadium in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan. The commander said, “We have lost all trace of 50 soldiers after an attack by Al-Qaeda elements enabled them to recapture control of the Al-Wahda stadium [outside of Zinjibar].” Yemen’s SABA news agency reported that an anonymous military source refuted the story, claiming that no military leader told AFP reporters of missing soldiers. Khaled Noamani, commander of the 25th Mechanised Brigade, said, “We call on the country to send support to the troops of the 25th brigade, we have been blockaded for over a month and have not received reinforcements, equipment, or even a drop of water in over two weeks…There are battles here day and night.”
- Hundreds of thousands Yemeni demonstrators marched on July 4 to the residence of Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi in Sana’a to accuse the government of not taking enough action against Islamist militants in southern regions of the country. Protestors handed a petition to guards at Hadi’s residence demanding that the government take action and end its use of the Islamist insurgency as a political gambit to prop up the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime. Thousands of protestors rallied in other major cities to reiterate demands for the ouster of President Saleh and a quick transfer of power.
- Defected General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar rejected the government’s proposal that Saleh stay in power until a new president is elected. He said, “The general public is seeking a transfer of power to the vice president…This is a principle that we must follow because there are agreement that sides have signed and it is compulsory that all sides agree on its specifics; not change its points.” An anonymous Yemeni cabinet official announced on Sunday that a transfer of power cannot occur until Saleh returns to Yemen. The official said, “Saleh plans to support the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal and he asked the foreign minister to do everything to make the plan succeed…But in order for the power to be transitioned, the president had to be in Yemen…To have a proper election you would need six to eight months and during that period Saleh will still be president.”
- The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) announced that “they are on the verge of agreement in forming a transitional council.” The JMP held a meeting on July 2 in Sana’a to discuss the matter. Muhammad al Mutawakkil, a leader in the JMP, said, “The follow-up committee wrote down necessary notes, and tomorrow we will continue the discussion. When we finalize this project, we will distribute copies to and discuss that with the parties and then take versions to the squares of the youth-led protestors in Yemen cities to come out with a united project.” Hassan Zaid, secretary general of the al Haq party, said the transitional council would include all political organizations opposed to Saleh’s regime, including the Islamist movement in the south.
- Yemeni police arrested Hassan Zaid, head of the al Haq party, at Sana’a airport. Zaid’s son, Mohammed Hassan Zaid, said “everybody knows the reason is political.” The al Haq party is part of the opposition government coalition and represents the Zaidi Shiites in northern Yemen.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab publicly lashed four young men in Afgoi district on July 1 for armed robbery and drug use. Two of the defendants were sentenced to 39 flogs each for allegedly looting a shop in Lafole area. The other two defendants were sentenced to 40 flogs each for using tobacco. Al Shabaab called on residents to watch the public flogging in an open square.
- Rival militias clashed in Somalia’s central Mudug region on July 3, leaving at least 35 people dead and 75 wounded. Violence broke out in Dhegtur village south of Galkayo between militias from Galmudug and Himan and Heeb over claims to wells and grazing lands. The militias used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the clash. President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has called for an immediate ceasefire.
- The militant faction Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a has been making significant headway against al Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu. The group, comprised of volunteer Sufi students, claims that its sole ambition is to expel al Shabaab from the capital.
- Residents in Kismayo report sightings of low flying aircraft over the town in southern Somalia on the morning of July 2. Al Shabaab controls the port city, sparking concerns of airstrikes.
- Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told reporters that the new government seeks to liberate the entire country from al Shabaab and ensure security for its citizens. Ahmed told reporters at a press conference, “Our main focus is security. We want to liberate Mogadishu and the entire Somalia. This will give us a chance to start on other areas like job-creation for the youth. We would like to also complete the process of making the constitution. Another thing we want to accomplish is to have regional governments in Somalia. Strengthening government institutions like justice and police is also among our plans. We also need to provide services to the people in the liberated areas. We need to first create an environment that will help us to have elections without rushing and cause problems... I have tried to build a police force and an army that will defend the interests of Somalia. We have spent a lot of time trying to improve the security situation in Mogadishu. We are also are building institutions, justice. We have done a great job.”
- Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali visited the frontlines of war-ravaged Mogadishu on July 2. He visited military bases and war zones in Hawl Wadag district, including Bakara, Taribunka square and the former defense ministry building. Ali also met with Burundian troops and reaffirmed his focus on the fight against al Shabaab.
- Somali Prime Minister Ali reiterated on July 4 that fighting al Qaeda-linked militants and reducing corruption are his top priorities. He said, “I cannot promise that Mogadishu will be the way it was 20 years ago in 12 months. That will be unrealistic… But what I will try to do is to get rid of militants who made Mogadishu what it is today...(so) its inhabitants who are now (displaced) can come back peacefully to their homes.” He said that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is “a small but efficient government,” and that he will work to create sustainable infrastructure in Somalia.
- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, in a meeting with East African leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, asked the United Nations to impose a no fly zone on Somalia to cut of supplies and support to al Shabaab. An Inter-Governmental Authority on Development Assembly (IGAD) resolution read, “The assembly reiterates its call for the UNSC to provide support to AMISOM including mission enablers and to adopt a resolution that enforces a blockade of Kismayu, Barava, Merka and Elmaan and imposes air exclusion zone such as on Balidogle and Cisaley to cut the supply lines to the extremist groups.” Leaders also called on the African Union and United Nations to impose additional sanctions on Eritrea for its material support of al Shabaab. East African nations agreed to create a task force to monitor arms flows into the country.