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: U.S. Ambassador to Yemen says that Iran is supporting the al Houthis and southern secessionists; al Houthi leader says that the group will consider forming a political party given the right conditions; suspected al Qaeda gunmen kill an officer during an ambush; tens of thousands of Yemenis demand prosecution of Saleh; at least ten civilians killed in landmine explosions in Hajjah governorate; AQAP releases a biography of a slain commander; Madad News Agency releases posthumous video of Ansar al Sharia’s Arhab commander
Horn of Africa: Two killed and seven wounded in mortar attack near presidential palace in Mogadishu; former TFG president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed dies; hundreds of Ethiopian troops reportedly set up a base in Galgudud to combat al Shabaab in the region; al Shabaab reportedly shoots at entertainment centers in Mogadishu, assassinates Bondhere district tax chief; Somali journalist survives assassination attempt in Wadajir district in Mogadishu; landmine blast wounds two soldiers and two civilians in Mogadishu; TFG clashes with al Shabaab near Afgoi; al Shabaab releases 10 communiqués detailing attacks including a car bomb in Mogadishu, mortar attacks on the presidential palace, and the brief seizure of Dhusamareb and Dif village
Yemen Security Brief
- During an interview with the Arabic London daily al Hayat on March 25, Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, stated that Iran, with support from Hamas and Hezbollah, is seeking a toehold in the Arabian Peninsula. In order to achieve this, says Feierstein, Iran has been supporting the al Houthis in the north of Yemen and southern secessionists in the south. This way, it can breed instability in Yemen, causing concern among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and specifically Saudi Arabia. According to Feierstein, "There is evidence that Hezbollah and Hamas support this Iranian effort. We are aware of a southern Yemeni [secessionist] presence in Beirut that has been used as a conduit for Iranian support for obstruction in southern Yemen." In his remarks, Feierstein also made it clear that military restructuring was necessary for the Yemeni armed forces to effectively confront al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
- Dhaif Allah al Shami, a member of the al Houthis’ political office, said in an interview with the Yemeni online publication Al Masdar Online that the group would consider the formation of a political party “if conditions were ripe,” at the determination of its leader Abdul Malik al Houthi. The conditions would include a state that respects rights and freedoms, particularly freedom of religion, and that stops foreign interference in Yemeni affairs.
- Gunmen suspected to be linked to al Qaeda ambushed a military convoy on March 25, killing an officer and wounding two soldiers. The convoy was just east of Hawta, in Lahij governorate, on its way to reinforce a military checkpoint in Hamra, which has seen increased militant activity.
- Tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied in various cities on March 23, demanding that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh lose his immunity and be put on trial. Many believe that he continues to control the government through loyalists in senior military and cabinet positions and, in the words of activist, is “still working on sabotaging the revolution.”
- At least ten civilians were killed in three landmine explosions in Hajjah governorate on March 23, according to the Yemen Defense Ministry. No definitive word was given as to whether or not the attack had been carried out by the al Houthis.
- On March 18, AQAP released the 10th edition of its “Martyrs in the Peninsula” series, a biography of AQAP leader Ali bin Saeed bin Jamil, also known as Muwahhid al Maribi, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in July 2011. Maribi had been AQAP’s leader in Abyan governorate. The biography details his fights against the Saleh government, including his leadership in the 2009 “Battle of Ma’rib” and participation in the capture of Zinjibar in 2011. It explains that, upon hearing of her son’s death in battle, Maribi’s mother said, “Praise be to Allah that he died as a martyr and not on his bed.”
- Madad News Agency posted a posthumous video of AQAP commander Mohammed al Haniq, Ansar al Sharia’s commander of Arhab district, on jihadist forums on March 22. In it, al Haniq praises the virtues of shari’a: when it is implemented, as has been the case in Jaar (“Waqar”) in Abyan governorate, it makes “people happy and society happy,” the “whole society is ruled by truth,” and it institutes fairness. Al Haniq stated that “democracy is ignorance, a contemporary ignorance, just like the time of the tribe of Qureish before Islam was a time of ignorance. The truth is in Islam.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A father and son were killed and seven others wounded in a mortar attack on a refugee camp near the presidential palace in Mogadishu overnight. The presidential palace has been targeted by mortars three times within the past week.
- Former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed died of complications from pneumonia on March 23 at the age of 77 in a hospital in Abu Dhabi. Current president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed ordered that the Somali flag fly at half mast for seven days.
- Radio Gaalkacyo reported that hundreds of Ethiopian troops arrived to Guriel in Galgudud region on March 24 to establish a base. The troops were reportedly armed with heavy weapons and armored vehicles and are “preparing to attack al Shabaab strongholds in parts of [Galgudud region].”
- Al Shabaab reportedly shot at children playing videogames in Bondhere and Wardhigley districts in Mogadishu on March 24. One boy was killed and another injured. On the same night, al Shabaab assassinated tax chief of Bondhere district Mohammed Hassan.
- Somali journalist Muhayadin Hassan Mohammed was wounded in an assassination attempt by unknown gunmen on March 25 in Wadajir district in Mogadishu.
- Witnesses reported that a landmine blast in Yaqshid district in Mogadishu targeting a TFG checkpoint wounded at least two soldiers and two civilians on March 26.
- TFG forces clashed with al Shabaab militants near Afgoi late on March 25. The attacks reportedly began when al Shabaab mortared TFG positions in Ex-control Afgoi. TFG commander in the Afgoi corridor Ahmed Abdullah Yare said, “The battle was extremely fierce and spread [to] many neighborhoods, including Hoosh village in [Dharkenley] district. We managed to ward off the militants from the area and now our soldiers maintain the full control.”
- Al Shabaab released two communiqués through its media wing al Kata’ib Media Foundation on March 23. On March 21, al Shabaab reported that a car bomb in Mogadishu killed many spies. On the same day, al Shabaab clashed with Ethiopian troops in el Barde in Bakool region. On March 22, al Shabaab released eight communiqués claiming attacks in Banadir, Jubba, and Galgudud regions, including mortar attacks on the presidential palace in Mogadishu. In addition, al Shabaab reported on its brief seizure of both Dhusamareb in Galgudud and Dif village in Lower Jubba.