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: Yemeni airmen succeed at ousting the commander of the air force and half-brother of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh; a senior Yemeni official reports that President Hadi is considering pulling Saleh loyalists from cabinet; Madad News Agency reports on March 13 suicide bombing on a checkpoint in al Bayda and other recent activities; jihadist encourages Muslims to deliver Anwar al Awlaki’s message of jihad to non-Arabic-speaking Muslims in the West

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants briefly seize Dhusamareb in Galgudud region; al Shabaab launches mortars at presidential palace in Mogadishu; al Shabaab seizes village in Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane calls on jihadists to continue fighting against AMISOM; at least eight people killed in fighting between al Shabaab and TFG troops backed by Kenyans in Lower Jubba region; three al Shabaab suspects arrested in Garowe; al Shabaab issues report claiming that the banishing of foreign aid organizations has stimulated the Somali economy

Yemen Security Brief

  • Commander of the Yemeni Air Force Major General Mohammed Saleh, the half-brother of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, was fired on March 19, marking the end to the two-month mutiny by low-ranking airmen. Colonel Hashim al Sameye said that President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi vowed to discharge Saleh within two weeks. Mohammed Saleh had held his post for 20 years.[1]
  • According to a senior Yemeni official close to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Hadi “is considering the dismissal of the country's national unity government because of what he sees as the meddling of his predecessor in its work.” The official added that Hadi is most concerned with Saleh’s continued daily meetings with top security and military officials. The new government would consist of members of the ruling General People’s Congress party who are not closely affiliated with Saleh.[2]
  • On March 19, Madad News Agency released a report on Ansar al Sharia’s recent activities including the March 13 suicide bombing on a checkpoint in al Bayda and the burning of oil tankers in Hadramawt on March 11. In the report, Ansar al Sharia encourages others to visit Jaar and witness the implementation of shari’a and the conditions that the soldiers taken captive on March 4 are living in. Finally, Madad News Agency reports on Ansar al Sharia’s community service, including the restoration of damaged electrical lines and water pipes in the city.[3]
  • In a post on Ansar al Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF) on March 19, a jihadist encouraged others to carry on the work of Anwar al Awlaki in delivering the message of jihad to non-Arabic-speaking Muslims living in the West. He writes, “When you say you’re a Muslim or Arabic [sic] in the west it’s like saying 'I’m a Mujahid' they need to understand what Jihad is! And show them that the real criminals are the Western & European Governments. Brothers Sisters we need to get our PC’s ready for a new chapter we need to jump in & help & support our family’s [sic] our people our Omah [nation] we need to support in Syria Yemen Somalia, we need to start working for the sake of Allah.”[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants seized control of Dhusamareb, a town in Galgudud region in central Somalia. They entered the city on vehicles and charged Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces, causing the latter to flee. There have been reports, however, that Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a was able to regroup and recapture the city, killing at least 30 people, wounding 26 others, and leading to the capture of five people by al Shabaab. According to one report, al Shabaab military spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Mus'ab said, “We had reached our main reason and in Allah’s wishes we have now vacated the town.”[5]
  • For the second consecutive night, al Shabaab militants launched mortars at the presidential palace in Mogadishu. According to Paddy Akunda, African Union Mission in Somalia’s (AMISOM) spokesman, “[t]he rebels targeted the palace but the shells landed just outside. There were no casualties.” AMISOM troops returned fire, but their leaders admitted that they did not know where the mortars were coming from. Terrified by the fighting, some local residents have said that they are going to flee.[6] 
  • Al Shabaab militants captured Dif village in Lower Jubba region. Fighters of the Ras Kamboni brigades, previously in control of the village, withdrew from the town without engaging al Shabaab. Al Shabaab militants had taken control of Dif on March 3, but withdrew shortly thereafter.[7]
  • Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair, promised that his group would continue to fight AMISOM and urged jihadists to keep attacking, including in Puntland: “Mujahedeen fighters in areas controlled by the apostate Puntland government must remain unified, you must strengthen your battle fronts until you ensure the Islamic flag flies over the whole region."[8]
  • Fighting broke out on March 19 after al Shabaab militants ambushed a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Kenyan military convoy that was traveling from Kolbio village to Badhadhe in Lower Jubba region. At least eight people were killed in the clashes.[9]
  • Three people, a woman and two men, were arrested in Garowe for suspected links to al Shabaab on March 19. According to Farah Abdurrahman, police chief of Nugal region, they had been found with explosive devices on them.[10]
  • In a report posted on jihadist forums on March 17, al Shabaab gave the reasons for its banning of foreign aid organization from territories under its control. In the report, the militant group argues that the organizations were, in reality, running the country and representative of a “malicious conspiracy”, and “all of their goals were corrupt, like proselytizing, and the controlling the resources or destroying them.” When the organizations were closed down, the Somali people stopped looking for hand outs and began to work the land, the report argues, and “the agricultural market flourished once again.” It also praises the good works of al Shabaab governors in Bay and Bakool regions, as well as Lower Shabelle, including “restoring roads, digging wells and canals, repairing bridges in farms, digging ponds and small lakes, providing fresh water, security, and stability, and raising the economic growth…”[11]        

[1] Ahmed al Haj, “Yemeni Air Force Ends Mutiny on Vow to Oust Chief,” AP, March 19, 2012. Available:
[2] Ahmed al Haj, “Official: Yemen Leader Mulls Dismissing Government,” AP, March 20, 2012. Available:
[3] “Madad News Reports on Suicide Bombing in al-Bayda, Activities,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 19, 2012. Available at SITE.
[4] “Jihadist Calls to Carry On Awkali’s [sic] Work, Inspire Muslims in the West,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 19, 2012. Available at SITE.
[5] “Islamist Fighters Seize Central Somali Town,” AFP, March 20, 2012. Available:
Abdalle Ahmed, “Heavy Gun Battle in Dhusamareb Kills 30, Several Abducted,” Raxanreeb, March 20, 2012. Available:
[6] Abdi Sheikh, “Somali Rebels Resume Barrage on Presidential Palace,” Reuters, March 20, 2012. Available:
[7] “Al-Shabab Captures Diif Village Without Resistance,” Shabelle Media Network, March 20, 2012. Available:
“Al-Shabab Takes Over a Village in Somalia after Attack,” Shabelle Media Network, March 4, 2012. Available:
[8] “Islamist Fighters Seize Central Somali Town,” AFP, March 20, 2012. Available:
[9] “8 Killed in Bloody Battle against Al-Shabab in Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, March 19, 2012. Available:
[10] “Woman and Men Arrested in Garowe,” Radio Kulmiye, March 19, 2012. Available:
[11] “Shabaab Says Closing Foreign Organizations Stimulated Somali Economy,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 19, 2012. Available at SITE.
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