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: JMP agrees to form unity government; two killed in clashes between separatists and security forces in Radfan; Saleh dismisses five governors; 25 people injured in skirmish at Hadramawt demonstration; demonstrations continue in Sana’a and Taiz; radical cleric Zindani joins opposition; tribal leaders divide over support for opposition; government inquiry concludes opposition supporters are behind protest violence; U.S. officials respond to Saleh allegations
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab fighters lash 47 villagers; Somali ambassador warns Somalis in Kenya to carry ID cards; skirmishes reported in Kalshale between SSC militias and Somaliland soldiers; UK to increase aid to Somalia; France evacuates 13 AMISOM soldiers for medical care; Burundian general says his soldiers will remain in Somalia; TFG plans to block al Shabaab-controlled ports in southern Somalia; fighting in Beled Hawo displaces thousands of civilians; al Shabaab official says his fighters do not recognize human rights; Swedish court overturns convictions of two al Shabaab sympathizers
Yemen Security Brief
- Abdul Malik al Mutawakil, head of the supreme council of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), announced that the JMP is prepared to form a unity government with the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party after the two sides agreed to resume dialogue. Mutawakil said that the regime offered to investigate and punish the perpetrators of recent violence, compensate the families of the victims, and establish a schedule for implementing further reforms.
- Skirmishes between armed militants and security forces in Radfan, in Lahij governorate, left two people dead, including a suspected local gangster and a security officer who was killed in a friendly fire incident. The Yemen Post reported that security forces shelled the city intermittently during the morning and afternoon of March 1.
- President Saleh dismissed the governors of Aden, Hadramawt, Hudaydah and reassigned them to positions within the Shura council. Saleh also transferred the governor of Lahij to a position as the vice minister within the Industry and trade Ministry, and appointed the governor of Abyan as a vice minister within the Agriculture Ministry. The Yemen Observer cited an unnamed official source who said that the officials were fired for their failure to prevent unrest and provide social services.
- The Yemen Post reported that at least 25 people were injured in clashes between anti-government protestors and construction workers in Hadramawt governorate. Workers threw stones and shot at demonstrators, who broke into the construction site and severely beat several laborers. Over 30,000 people are thought to have participated in the rally.
- SABA News, Yemen’s news agency, reported that hundreds of thousands of pro-government demonstrators, including Sana’a mayor Abdul Rahman al Akwa, rallied at Tahrir Square in Sana’a and voiced their support for President Saleh and his proposed reforms. The Yemen Observer reported that around 10,000 opposition supporters gathered at Sana’a University and a similar number assembled in Taiz.
- SABA News reported that the Yemeni parliament assembled and issued a resolution condemning the recent violence, encouraging the ruling GPC party and JMP to resume dialogue, and asking MPs who resigned to return to parliament. The parliament also discussed ways to bolster job opportunities for unemployed youths.
- Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani, listed by the U.S. as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his ties to al Qaeda, spoke before a crowd of thousands in Sana’a and announced his support for the opposition, saying “an Islamic state is coming,” and that President Saleh “came to power by force and stayed in power by force and the only way to get rid of him is through the force of the people.” Two weeks ago, Zindani backed Saleh’s government.
- Sheikh Amin al Okeimy of the Waelah tribe announced that his tribe “stands by the people until they achieve all their goals.” Okeimy has sheltered suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leaders in the past, and his statement was countered by other elders in the Waelah tribe who declared that “we stand with President Saleh with all our souls against those who call for disturbance and sabotage.”
- The Yemen Observer reported that the Public National Committee to Defend Unity has ruled that JMP supporters are responsible for acts of violence that have occurred during protests across Yemen. The committee issued a statement which concluded, “they consider that demonstration is a failure if there were no casualties.”
- U.S. officials responded to President Saleh’s allegations that the U.S. and Israel have been inciting unrest in the Arab world. White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “We don’t think scapegoating will be the kind of response that the people of Yemen or the people in other countries will find adequate....they need to focus on the political reforms that they need to implement to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people.” Deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism Garry Reid said that given Saleh’s role in combating AQAP “it’s the best partner we’ll have, and hopefully it will survive.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Sheikh Abdullahi Mohamed Salad, al Shabaab’s chief judge in the Galgudud region, announced that 47 people were lashed in the village of Masagawa for violating the laws imposed by al Shabaab.
- Mohamed Ali Ameriko, Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya, warned Somali citizens not to travel in Kenya without their ID cards as Kenyan police are on high alert following threats from al Shabaab directed towards Kenya. The Suna Times reported that Kenyan police in the border town of Mandera have arrested at least ten people suspected of being involved with al Shabaab.
- Shabelle Media Network reported that calm has returned after Somaliland soldiers and militants from the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) administration clashed near the village of Kalshale in the Buhoodle district of the Sool region. At least one person was injured in the fighting.
- British Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell announced that the UK will increase aid to Somalia in an effort to bolster security in the country and improve the quality of life. Aid will nearly triple over the next three years, rising from £26 million in 2011 to £80 by 2014. Mitchell said “But this is not just aid from Britain; it is aid for Britain too. Our aid to Somalia is helping to make Britain safer, because conflict doesn’t just claim innocent lives in Somalia, it also leads to international problems like piracy, migration and terrorism.”
- The French embassy in Nairobi issued a press release stating that French aircraft evacuated 13 wounded AMISOM peacekeepers to Djibouti to receive emergency medical care. The release affirmed France’s support for AMISOM, saying “This is a way for France to concretely express its commitment to the African Union and to all those who work for peace and stability in Somalia. France hails the courage and determination of AMISOM soldiers in the face of unacceptable attacks.”
- Burundian Major General Godefroid Niyombare, Chief of Staff of the National Defense Force and War Veterans, told reporters that Burundian forces have no plans to leave Somalia, saying that “what matters most is not so much the number of victims in the Somali war as the work already done by our courageous soldiers.”
- The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) announced that it will block ships from using al Shabaab-controlled ports in southern Somalia in an effort to limit the flow of arms and supplies to extremists. With the aid of the international community, the TFG plans to close ports in Kismayo, Marka and Barawe.
- IRIN reported that thousands of civilians have been displaced by fighting between TFG and Ethiopian soldiers and al Shabaab militants near the town of Beled Hawo. Many of the refugees have fled across the border into the Kenyan town of Mandera, and one person told IRIN that Beled Hawo has been almost completely destroyed “after days of shelling.” The Suna Times reported that mortars have also struck the nearby village of Burta and the Kenyan military has been amassing tanks and soldiers at the border.
- Al Shabaab official Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur told residents of Barwko village, located near Beled Hawo in the Gedo region, that al Shabaab fighters do not recognize the concept of human rights. Mansur also claimed that local aid groups have been supporting the TFG.
- A Swedish court reversed the convictions of two men found guilty in December 2010 of planning suicide attacks in Somalia, ruling that while the men traveled to Somalia and were in contact with al Shabaab, they had not actually committed any crimes.