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: Swiss woman kidnapped by armed tribesmen in al Hudaydah; an al Houthi official denies receiving arms from Iran; two Africans suspected of having ties to AQAP arrested in Dhamar; Madad News Agency interviews Abyan residents about living with Ansar al Sharia

Horn of Africa: TFG forces make advances against al Shabaab outside of Mogadishu; African al Qaeda affiliates, including al Shabaab, have been using more sophisticated IEDs this year; Ethiopian forces cross the Eritrean border; 100 fighters from Jareer-weyne clan join al Shabaab; al Shabaab posts six communiqués on jihadist forums detailing the group’s attacks

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Yemeni interior ministry confirmed that armed tribesmen kidnapped a Swiss woman on March 14 in the port city of al Hudaydah after she left a language institute where she teaches English. An official reported that the tribesmen took her back to Shabwah governorate. In return, the tribesmen demanded the release of fellow tribesmen.[1]
  • Mohammed Abdul Salam, a spokesman for the al Houthis, denied receiving weapons from Iran. "We are in no need of Iranian weapons," he told The National. "The people of Yemen are supporting us. Our power is through them and not through Iran." However, other al Houthi officials reported that Iran was providing political, logistical, and financial support.[2]
  • The Yemeni interior ministry reported that Yemen’s security apparatus detained two Africans suspected of having ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Dhamar governorate. Both had entered Yemen illegally.[3]
  • On March 14, Madad News Agency released a video on jihadist forums showing interviews with local residents in Abyan conducted by a Madad representative. The interviewer asked the residents to describe their experiences living with Ansar al Sharia. One interviewee said, “At the outset people were scared and saying, 'al-Qaeda is in the area,' but when we saw them, it was good to live with them..." When asked about airstrikes, a resident responded, “I am with the Shariah, with the Islamic rule, against the traitors. Planes bomb us. I am ready to die now. Allah is Great. There is no God but Allah."[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • For the first time, Transitional Federal Government troops, backed by AMISOM, conquered a significant amount of territory outside of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, advancing as far as Galgalato, 20 miles northeast of the capital. Al Shabaab appears to have simply withdrawn from these areas and to not have engaged the allied troops.[5]
  • African al Qaeda affiliates, including al Shabaab have been using deadlier, more sophisticated forms of improvised explosive devices (IED). Fewer attacks have led to higher casualties among African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Somalia, and in Kenya, IED attacks increased 86 percent since last year (from 14 incidents to 26). According to John Myrick, head of global missions task force for the Department of Defense’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, said that bombs in Somalia “are definitely more sophisticated and they’re definitely more effective against AMISOM armored vehicles, which represents an advance in the capabilities of the insurgents.” The increasing sophistication points to better logistical support and improved training methods. Major General Fred Mugisha, the commander of AMISOM, said, “We see a lot in common with what happened and is still happening in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that for us confirms that the operations of al-Qaida and al-Shabab are the same.” Kenyan military forces in Somalia have had to employ more effective counter-IED tactics which have reduced the casualty rate, according to Colonel Cyrus Oguna, their commander.[6]
  • Ethiopian forces crossed the Eritrean frontier on March 15, attacking bases run by militants who, the Ethiopian government argues, have targeted Ethiopia and are supported by the Eritrean government. The Ethiopian military advanced 10 miles into the country.[7]
  • Sheikh Yusuf Sheikh Issa, al Shabaab’s representative in Middle Shabelle, announced that 100 fighters from the Jareer-weyne clan have joined al Shabaab. A Somali MP, Mowlid Ma’ane, opined that they had been forcibly conscripted.[8]
  • On March 14 and 15, al Shabaab released six communiqués on jihadist forums detailing the group’s attacks. They claimed responsibility for the March 14 suicide bombing at Villa Somalia, the presidential palace, which was a “response to the violation by the apostate militias in Mogadishu of the Book of Allah. At the beginning of this week, a number of apostate militia elements tore apart some copies of the Qur'an inside a mosque in Wagir district of Mogadishu, and used its pages for kindling and threw them into toilets.” Outside of Fafadun village in Lower Jubba region, al Shabaab clashed with Kenyan forces and claimed to have caused “massive losses” and to have burned two Kenyan armored vehicles. In Jamaame, a city in Lower Jubba, a man accused of murder was publicly executed. Al Shabaab attacked allied forces between Hoosh and Ex-control Afgoi, outside of Mogadishu. A Beledweyne security officer, sympathetic to al Shabaab, threw a hand grenade at an “apostate” officer, and reportedly killed several soldiers. In its last message, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for targeting Ethiopian soldiers with an IED, killing and wounding them.[9]   

[1] “Swiss Woman Kidnapped in Yemen: Interior Ministry,” Reuters, March 16, 2012. Available:,0,4156334.story
[2] Hakim Almasmari, “Houthi Official Denies Receiving Arms from Iran,” The National, March 16, 2012. Available:
[3] “Two Africans Suspected of Having Ties to al Qaeda Detained in Dhamar,” Yemeni Ministry of Interior, March 16, 2012. Available:
[4] “Madad News Agency Interviews Abyan Residents about Ansar al-Shariah,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 15, 2012. Available at SITE.
[5] “Somalia Forces Advance from Mogadishu Against al-Shabab,” BBC News, March 16, 2012. Available:
[6] Jason Straziuso, “African AQ-Linked Groups Using Advanced IEDs,” AP, March 15, 2012. Available:
[7] Jeffrey Gettleman, “Ethiopia Hits at Bases Run by Militants in Eritrea,” New York Times, March 15, 2012. Available:
[8] “Governor: Somali Clan Shows Support Al-Qaeda Linked Shabaab,” Shabelle Media Network, March 16, 2012. Available:
[9] “Shabaab Claims Suicide Bombing in Mogadishu, Other Attacks,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 15, 2012. Available at SITE.
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