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: Security forces continue to battle Islamists in Abyan; al Houthis control Sa’ada governorate; Yemeni security sources blame southern separatists for Mukalla chaos; Saleh warns of country’s descent into chaos in speech to ruling party; UN opens humanitarian access negotiations with Saleh government and al Houthi rebels; fourteen-year-old boy clubbed to death under state of emergency

Horn of Africa: TFG extends all Transitional Federal Institutions writ by one year; TFG proposes autonomous region as solution to lawlessness on border with Kenya; fighting in Bondhere district in Mogadishu kills at least seven people; India pledges aid in exchange for Somali cooperation on recovering Indian hostages; EU pledges €65.9 million to support Somali peacekeeping; Somali pirates repelled by Iranian Navy; pirates hijack an oil tanker

Yemen Security Brief

  • Fighting between AQAP militants and Republican Guard forces continued in the southern province of Abyan as armed militants — a mix of radical Islamists and local rebels, possibly southern separatists — continue to hold the local radio station, presidential palace, and the ammunition factory set ablaze over the weekend.[1]
  • Al Houthi rebels have reportedly taken control of Sa’ada governorate. Last week, the governor fled and a local committee, which included defected military commanders, locals, and rebels, appointed Fares Mana’a, a major arms dealer in Yemen, governor of Sa’ada. SABA News, Yemen’s official news agency, reported that Mana’a declared himself governor of Sa’ada without the approval of the president.[2]
  • A Yemeni security official claims that southern separatists were actively involved in chanting for Yemeni civil disorder as well as in the subsequent rioting that gripped the southeastern city of Mukalla in Hadramawt governorate, which left numerous buildings, including the National Bank of Yemen, ablaze.[3]
  • In Sunday’s speech to the ruling party of Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned that chaos and state failure would accompany his resignation, and refused to make more concessions to the opposition. “We will not make any concessions,” Saleh declared, before moving on to say, “Alas, if it falls, there will be chaos. Everyone will resort to his tribe. Everyone will carry his rifle and go to his tribe. It will be a new Somalia.”[4]
  • The UN has begun to negotiate humanitarian access with not just Saleh’s government, but with the al Houthi rebels in the north. “The United Nations is discussing how to reach affected people with both the government and the al-Houthis.” The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos urged Saleh to use restraint, citing deteriorating food availability, displacement due to conflict, and casualties due to fighting. The UN lists 31.5% of the population as “food insecure” and 12% as “severely food insecure.”[5]
  • Citing the state of emergency, Yemeni police forces in Sana’a beat a fourteen-year-old boy to death in response to petty fighting between two boys. In response, the National Organization of Defending Human Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) accused Yemeni security forces of taking advantage of the declared state of emergency to commit unofficial crimes.[6]

Horn of Africa Brief

  • The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has decided to extend the writ of all Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) for a period of one year, lasting until August 2012. The TFG held an extraordinary meeting to consider the role of the government in the light of this year’s escalating crisis with al Shabaab and the growing threat of piracy off-shore.[7]
  • The TFG has begun discussions on granting autonomy to regions bordering Kenya that have been taken over and controlled by al Shabaab forces. The TFG has dubbed this autonomous zone “Jubbaland,” an autonomous region to be composed of the Somali administrative regions of Middle Jubba, Lower Jubba, and Gedo.[8]
  • Clashes between al Shabaab militants and TFG forces backed by AMISOM killed at least seven people and injured at least eleven others in Mogadishu.  The fighting occurred in Bondhere district. Al Shabaab’s military spokesman, Abdul Aziz Abu Mus’ab, claimed victory for al Shabaab and reported that militants had burned an AMISOM armored vehicle. In Tabakayo-Madow neighborhood of Dharkenley district in Mogadishu, a TFG base was hit by an explosive device, killing one soldier and injuring five other people, including a civilian.[9]
  • Somalia pledged all possible assistance to free 52 Indians currently held hostage by pirates in exchange for economic aid from India. India’s Minister of External Affairs suggested that Somalia “create more jobs by taking up projects, which the Government of India will be willing to help them in implementing.”[10]
  • The European Union pledged an additional €65.9 million to supplement the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Last week, Uganda and Burundi pledged to deploy more troops to AMISOM to tackle the deteriorating security situation throughout the country.[11]
  • Iran’s Fars News Agency reports that Iranian navy ships defended two Iranian trade vessels under attack by three pirate boats. In a related incident, Iranian special forces beat back four pirate boats with heavy gunfire when pirates attacked the Nabi, an Iranian commercial vessel.[12]
  • The European Union Naval Task Force Somalia reported that Somali pirates had hijacked the MV Zirku, an oil tanker, while it was passing through the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden en route to Singapore. The crew of 29 includes seamen from Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Croatia, Iraq, the Philippines, Ukraine, and India, among others.[13]


[1] Nadia al Sakkaf, “Breaking News: Armed groups take over Yemeni towns despite Saleh’s regional support,” Yemen Times, March 29, 2011. Available:
[2] Sudarsan Raghavan, “Yemen crisis intensifies with factory explosion,” Washington Post, March 29, 2011. Available:
Nadia al Sakkaf, “Breaking News: Armed groups take over Yemeni towns despite Saleh’s regional support,” Yemen Times, March 29, 2011. Available:
[3] “Separatists involved in Mukala riots arrested,” Saba Net, March 29, 2011. Available:
[4] “President addresses ruling party, warns of chaos,” Saba Net, March 29, 2011. Available:
[5] “UN voices concern over Yemen situation,” Press TV, March 29, 2011. Available:
[6] Yemen post Staff, “Police Kills 14-Year Old with Butts in Yemen Capital,” Yemen Post, March 28, 2011. Available:
[7] Abdulkadir Khalif, “Somali MPs extend governments term,” Daily Nation, March 29, 2011. Available:
[8] Paul Richardson, “Somali Region May Be Granted Autonomy to End Lawlessness, Standard Reports,” Bloomberg, March 29, 2011, Available:
[9] “Somalia: Fighting in Mogadishu Kills 7, Injuries 11 Others,” Mareeg Online, March 29, 2011. Available:
“Somalia: Bomb Explosion Kills 1 Soldier, Injures 5 in the Capital,” Mareeg Online, March 29, 2011. Available:
[10] “Somalia promises all help to get 53 Indians freed from pirates,” The Hindu, March 29, 2011. Available:
[11] “EU allocates 65.9 million euros to support peacekeeping in Somalia,” Relief Web, March 28, 2011, Available:
[12] “Somali Pirates’ Attack Repelled by Iranian Navy,” Fars News Agency, March, 29, 2011. Available:
[13] “Pirates hijack tanker with Pinoy seafarer,” GMA News, March 29, 2011. Available:
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