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: Three protestors injured in Amran shooting; tens of thousands of people rally across Yemen; Saleh blames U.S. and Israel for unrest in the Arab world; GPC calls for demonstrations; military deploys vehicles and soldiers to Aden; tribesmen abduct foreign doctor and demand inquiry into December 2009 air strike; thirteen MPs suspend their parliamentary memberships in protest; foreign minister meets with international diplomats; Saleh forms committee to investigate Aden violence; Human Rights Watch condemns secret detention of political prisoners; Minister of Education warns that education is being used to encourage opposition; Yemeni diplomat proposes new security cooperation agreement to Indian Minister of the Interior
Horn of Africa: At least 36 people killed in fighting in Beled Hawo; al Shabaab fighters press pirates for share of ransoms; al Shabaab sets up checkpoint at border between Kenya and Somalia; al Shabaab communiqués target Kenya, describe punishments, name new governor of Gedo region and praise tribe for donating weapons to al Shabaab; al Shabaab officials recruiting former officers in the Somali army; TFG offers to buy weapons from al Shabaab fighters who surrender; TFG President complains that TFG parliament will not reconsider the extension of its mandate; Kenyan police official says that border is secure but residents should remain vigilant; security company to continue work at Mogadishu airport; local elders and cleric blame al Shabaab for violence in Somalia
Yemen Security Brief
- Gunfire injured at least three people during skirmishes between pro- and anti-government protestors in al Thowra Square in Amran governorate. Eyewitnesses told the Yemen Post that regime loyalists were responsible for the violence, while SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, reported that supporters of opposition group the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) were behind the shooting.
- Tens of thousands of people across Yemen demonstrated against the regime of President Saleh and denounced recent violence in the city of Aden. Protestors in Sana’a shouted “With blood and soul we support you Aden,” and a prominent religious leader in Taiz said that he would join the estimated 10,000 opposition protestors demonstrating in the city. An estimated 6,000 pro-government supporters attended a counter demonstration in the capital. Saleh warned that if he leaves, “They would not be able to rule for even a week,” adding that “Yemen would be divided…into four pieces by those who are riding the wave of stupidity.”
- President Saleh alleged that the U.S. and Israel are behind the unrest in Yemen. He charged that the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a has given instructions to demonstrators and has accused President Obama of interfering in Yemeni affairs. Saleh accused opposition figures of meeting with U.S. officials to coordinate anti-government efforts. Saleh said, “I am going to reveal a secret. There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world. The operations room is in Tel Aviv and run by the White House.”
- The ruling General People’s Congress party (GPC) called on all of its supporters to demonstrate across Yemen March 1.
- The Yemen Post reported that dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to Aden governorate after the JMP called for rallies to be held March 1.
- Armed tribesmen abducted an Uzbek doctor living in Shabwah governorate and brought him to Abyan government, where they demanded that the government punish those responsible for a December 2009 air strike in the region that killed dozens of people. A tribesman told Reuters, “They took him to pressure the government to hold the people behind the air strike accountable. The people are upset with the government for not dealing with this issue.”
- Thirteen MPs, all of whom live in southern Yemen and are affiliated with different political parties, suspended their parliamentary memberships in protest against violent crackdowns against anti-government demonstrators in southern Yemen. In a joint statement, the MPs announced that they would not return to parliament until the use of “excessive force” is ceased, all political prisoners are released, the “military siege[s]” on Aden, Radfan, and Lahij are ended, and those responsible for harming protestors are punished.
- SABA News reported Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi met with diplomats from African nations, Russia, the U.S. and the UN in Sana’a, and discussed the latest developments in the unrest in Yemen. Qirbi affirmed that the government is committed to nonviolent dialogue with opposition leaders and has demonstrated a willingness to offer reforms.
- President Saleh created a panel to investigate recent violence in the city of Aden. The panel includes Minister of State Abdul Qadir Hilal, leading lawyer Abdullah Rajeh, deputy Minister for Local Administration Umar al Akbari and head of the national women’s committee Horya Mashour.
- Human Rights Watch reported that Yemeni security forces have “disappeared” at least eight people, including Southern Movement leader Hassan Baoum, and may secretly be holding as many as 59 political prisoners. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said “When the security forces ‘disappear’ opponents of the government they are enforcing not the law, but the political will of the ruler.”
- Yemeni Education Minister Abdul Salam al Jawfi told SABA News that the Ministry of Education is concerned that political parties and opposition groups have been using education as a tool to sway the opinions of young demonstrators. Jawfi said “we urge the political parties to respect the constitution which prevents the involvement of the young below 18 in political organizations.”
- Yemeni ambassador to India Khadijah Ghanim met with Indian Minister of the Interior P. Chidambaram and proposed a new agreement to increase cooperation between the two nations in the fields of security and scientific development.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Garowe Online reported that fighting between TFG and Ethiopian soldiers and al Shabaab militants in the town of Beled Hawo has killed at least 36 people. Eyewitnesses reported that mortars killed 21 civilians. Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage blamed Kenya for providing positions for the Ethiopian military to “massacre our people” and urged local residents to help al Shabaab, saying “Our brothers and sisters, those who will be affected in this war will be us and we don’t want us to harm you or [have you] harming us.”
- Residents report that al Shabaab militants have surrounded the pirate base in Harardhere in order to force the pirate leaders to accept their demands that the pirates permit six al Shabaab members to board vessels to monitor the payment of ransoms. Any proof that ransom payments finance al Shabaab will make it difficult for ship owners to negotiate with the pirates for fear of funding terrorism.
- Al Shabaab militias set up immigration checkpoints at the border between Kenya and Somalia in the Lower Jubba region. Suna Times reported that all traffic must pass by the checkpoint, and buses have been restricted to carrying a maximum of ten passengers. Local residents suggested that al Shabaab officials in the area worry that local residents may flee to Kenya or that foreign forces may cross the border and attack al Shabaab fighters.
- Al Shabaab released three communiqués on jihadist forums between February 26 and 27 through its media arm, the al Kata’ib Foundation for Media Production. The first release announced that al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage had held a press conference in which he declared that al Shabaab fighters will target Kenya in retaliation for Kenyan support for AMISOM and TFG forces. The second communiqué detailed the number of lashings given to three men in the Lower Shabelle region convicted of adultery, possessing pornographic videos and committing treason. The third communiqué proclaimed that Sheikh Abbas Abdullah Abdul Rahman had been appointed as governor of the Gedo region, replacing Sheikh Basher Aden. The final release announced that the Bi Mal tribe in the Lower Shabelle region had donated fifteen Kalashnikovs and a vehicle equipped with a heavy machine gun to al Shabaab fighters.
- Shabelle Media Network reported that al Shabaab official Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur has appealed to former officers in the Somali military to join the fight against AMISOM and TFG forces.
- TFG Defense Minister Abdulhakim Hajji Fiki announced that the TFG will buy weapons from al Shabaab fighters who surrender and create jobs for them.
- TFG President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed held a press conference in Mogadishu and told reporters that he was disappointed that the TFG parliament had refused to reconsider its decision to extend its mandate by three years, saying that it was “sorrowful to create political conflict among the government [at] a time the TFG forces gained victory over the war.”
- Kenyan Police Commissioner Matthew Iteera told reporters that Kenyan soldiers have secured the border with Somalia and peace has temporarily returned the region, but advised residents to continue to be vigilant.
- An official from Dubai-based security contractor SKA Air and Logistics told Shabelle Media Network that the firm intends to continue work at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde international airport and that media reports that it had been asked to leave by TFG Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden are false.
- Sheikh Basher Ahmed Salad, chairman of the Organization of Somali Clerics, told Radio Kulmiye that al Shabaab is responsible for all of Somalia’s problems and called on clerics across the country to work to bring peace. Ahmed Diriye, the spokesman of the Hawiye elders of Mogadishu, also spoke to Radio Kulmiye and said that al Shabaab officials had refused his offer to serve as an intermediary between the group and the TFG.