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 continue in Zinjibar; Yemeni Vice President discussed Saleh’s return; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen expressed concern over instability in Yemen; President Saleh calls for dialogue with opposition groups; White House released new counterterrorism strategy
Horn of Africa: June 23 U.S. drone strike wounded two senior Awlaki-linked al Shabaab members; armed militias clashed in Mudug region; White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan discussed threat posed by militant groups in Somalia; AMISOM released a video encouraging Somalis to move to government-controlled areas; Ugandan President makes changes to UPDF
Yemen Security Brief
- Five Yemeni soldiers were killed in clashes with al Qaeda militants in Zinjibar. A military official told AFP, “Five soldiers were killed and six others were wounded in heavy fighting with Al-Qaeda militants in Zinjibar’s east.” He also said there were “deaths and injuries in the ranks of the enemies” and that the army has “managed to regain control” in the area surrounding Al-Wadha stadium. Militants took over the stadium yesterday in clashes that left at least 47 people dead, including five civilians.
- Yemeni Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi told CNN that President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s wounds were so severe that he cannot determine when he will return from Saudi Arabia. Hadi told a CNN reporter, “It could be months. This is a decision up to doctors…I have no idea about the exact date when he is coming.” Hadi has been given full presidential authority to sign a United Nations-sponsored peace proposal, and outlined a deal that would have Saleh relinquishing power only after a new president has been elected. The acting president described how U.S. drones have been using voice recognition systems to identify and target al Qaeda militants operating in the country. He said this information is passed along to Yemeni authorities on the ground.
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen expressed concern over the escalating violence and unrest in Yemen. He told reporters at the National Press Club, “Al Qaeda, the federated group that’s in Yemen, is an incredibly dangerous group that has taken full advantage of the chaos that has been in that country…The security piece is a necessary condition, but it is insufficient in and of itself and it’s taken a long time to figure that out.”
- Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi made a statement on behalf of President Ali Abdullah Saleh that called for dialogue with opposition groups in Yemen. On state television, the Foreign Minister said, “[We discussed the Gulf initiative, and [President Saleh] called for the opening of a dialogue with the opposition…in order to agree on a vehicle by which to implement the Gulf Initiative.” The opposition has dismissed the announcement as another meaningless pledge. He also said that Saleh has shown “good and continuous improvement” in his recovery.
- The White House released the Obama administration’s new counterterrorism strategy, which addresses al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A section of the document titled “Arabian Peninsula: Al-Qa’ida and Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” reads, “Our CT efforts in the Arabian Peninsula are part of out general strategy for the region that includes other objectives such a promoting responsive governance and respect for the rights of citizens, which will reduce al-Qa’ida’s resonance and relevancy…Yemen’s instability has direct implications for the United States. Even as we work to support Yemen’s stability and the aspirations of the Yemeni people, the defeat of AQAP will remain our CT priority in the region, and we will continue to leverage and strengthen our partnerships to achieve this end.”
- U.S. drones targeted and wounded two senior members of an al Shabaab insurgent militia in Somalia on June 23. The two militants were said to have “direct ties” to U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who is operationally active in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) . A senior U.S official said, “They have become somewhat emboldened of late, and, as a result, we have become more focused on inhibiting their activities…They were planning operations outside of Somalia.” The incident marks the first time the United States has conducted a drone attack in Somalia.
- Armed militias clashed in central Somalia’s Mudug region in a dispute over wells, leaving two people dead and three others injured. Local residents said the militias used both heavy and light weaponry in the engagement.
- Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan mentioned the terrorist threat in Somalia as he discussed the administration’s new counterterrorism strategy on Wednesday. Brennan said, “From the territory it controls in Somalia, al-Shabaab continues to call for strikes against the United States. As a result, we cannot and we will not let down our guard. We will continue to pummel al-Qai’da and its ilk, and we will remain vigilant at home…As the al-Qai’da core has weakened under our unyielding pressure, it has looked increasingly to these other groups and individuals to take up its cause, including its goal of striking the United States...Ultimately defeating al-Qai’da also means addressing the serious threat posed by its affiliates and adherents operating outside south Asia.”
- AMISOM released a video with personal interviews from AMISOM Force spokesman Lt. Colonel Paddy Ankunda and Mayor of Mogadishu Mohamoud Ahmed Nur. In the first part of the video, Colonel Ankunda described how life and business in Somalia has improved, and encouraged all Somali citizens in regions under al Shabaab to move over to government-controlled areas. He ensured all Somalis that they can carry out their daily lives and business activities uninterrupted and under the protection of the government. In the second part of the video, Mayor Nur affirmed that the government is building new markets, expanding business areas, and building playgrounds in order to alleviate overcrowding in government-controlled areas. He said that al Shabaab does not value the life and property of the Somali people, and that the government is making significant headway against the Islamist insurgency.
- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has promoted personnel in the Uganda’s People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in an effort to intensify the AMISOM offensive against al Shabaab in Somalia. Numerous military officers at home and abroad have been assigned to new positions and received promotions, including three Mogadishu-based Majors that have been promoted to lieutenant colonels.