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: AQAP claims responsibility for multiple attacks; gunmen kill one soldier and injure four others in Ataq; Madad News Agency releases its 11th report on AQAP activities; AQAP issues a communiqué claiming the killing of an American intelligence official in Aden governorate; jihadist urges fellow Muslims to kill U.S. Ambassador to Yemen; U.S. and Yemen agree to resume counterterrorism training

Horn of Africa: Top al Shabaab leaders meet with elders in Bay region; widow of July 7, 2005 London bomber is sought in Somalia; al Shabaab claims responsibility for the death of a journalist in Galkayo and two security officers in Mogadishu; Turkish Airlines launch flights to Mogadishu; Somali pirates willing to swap hijacked ship for the release of prisoners in Somaliland

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility on March 7 for the March 3 suicide car bombing in al Bayda and the bombs in al Mukalla, as well as the March 4 attack on Yemeni military targets in Abyan, which led to the deaths of 185 Yemeni soldiers. Additionally, AQAP claimed to have caused the explosion of a military plane at Daylami Air Force Base, near Sana’a International Airport. It claimed that the plane was being used to transport materiel to south Yemen to be used by Yemeni troops. According to the statement, an AQAP militant “sneaked into the base and planted an explosive device in the plane.”[1]
  • Gunmen attacked a military post in Ataq in Shabwah governorate, killing one soldier and wounding four others on March 6. The gunmen fled after an exchange of fire. Local sources reported that two of the assailants were killed during the attack, but this information has not been verified. Local sources blamed AQAP for the attack.[2]
  • Madad News Agency released its eleventh report on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) activities. It was posted on jihadist forums on March 5. It praises the “martyr” of the February 25 al Mukalla suicide car bombing, Abu Mehjin al Say’ari. The other three articles of the report focus on governance issues in the terrorist group’s strongholds, including Abyan and Shabwah governorates. These include the Judicial Committee of Ansar al Sharia in the “Waqar Islamic Emirate” (Jaar); forgiveness of workers’ taxes, since tax collection from Muslims “opposes the Shariah”; and campaigns to deliver water for free and transport waste in ‘Azzan district (or the ‘Azzan Emirate).[3]
  • AQAP issued a communiqué, posted on jihadist forums on March 6, claiming that it had killed a senior American intelligence officer in Aden governorate, something that the American government had denied earlier this week. AQAP addressed the people of Yemen directly: “The Crusader enemy came to your homes and killed your sons and sent unto you puppets to control your country and steal your wealth. So, we urge you to do jihad against the Americans and their agents, and implement the fatwas of the scholars of Yemen, which make an obligation of fighting the Americans who are occupying Yemen.”[4]
  • On March 2, a jihadist on the Shumukh al Islam forum called upon his fellow Yemenis to kill the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald M. Feierstein. He accused Yemenis of betraying Islam and their great nation: “What is this falling into the hands of the criminal, apostate Saudi intelligence and the lowly pigs satanic Americans [sic], and on top of them the criminal American ambassador, and the deviants and the new Brotherhood agents?” Then the appeal became a direct incitement to violence: “Cut off the head of this American who crossed the line and the reasonable. Cut off the head of this American who is announcing it honestly: We don’t want you to establish your religion and we will not accept for you to do that…Extirpate this cancer before it extirpates you from your religion and Ummah.” He excoriated the United States, calling it “the biggest friendly country to the dictator who killed you and tore you apart and humiliated you and your religion and sheikhs, and who made you hungry, poor, and ignorant, and pushed you several centuries backwards.”[5]
  • U.S. and Yemeni officials have announced an agreement to resume the counterterrorism training of Yemeni forces. Aides of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi said that he hopes to coordinate with the Americans on counterterrorism efforts even more than his predecessor had done. This would be part of the restructuring and professionalization of the Yemeni military, an American priority in helping Yemen to transition from the Saleh period as well as become more capable of countering the al Qaeda threat.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Top al Shabaab leaders reportedly met with elders in Dinsor district in Bay region. An elder reported that they discussed ways to reclaim areas now under Transitional Federal Government (TFG) control.[7]
  • British woman Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of Jermaine Lindsay, has reportedly fled Kenya for Somalia. Her husband was one of four suicide bombers that attacked London on July 7, 2005. Lewthwaite is believed to have connections with al Shabaab.[8]
  • Pro-al Shabaab radio station Andalus announced that al Shabaab gunmen were responsible for the assassination of Somali journalist Ali Ahmed Abdi on March 4. A militant said, “In the wishes of God, we confirm that nowadays the spies and security agents for the apostate administrations are being targeted in Somalia. One spy for Puntland state was assassinated in north of Galkayo.” In the same broadcast, the militant reported the deaths of two young government security officers in Mogadishu on March 4.[9]
  • Turkish Airlines began launching flights to Mogadishu on March 6 becoming the first international airline to service Somalia in over 20 years. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said, “After 20 years of a lack of international flights to Europe, Asia and America, the Turkish government has facilitated for the Somalis to travel by Turkish Airlines to the world again.”[10]
  • Somali pirates announced that they are willing to swap a Panama-flagged vessel, MV Leila, hijacked in February for the release of prisoners in Somaliland. Somali pirate Yusuf Ali stated, “We will not release the ship until the prisoners are released. Somaliland harasses us and jails us for 20 years while in Yemen we only serve 7 years.”[11]    

[2] “Yemen Policeman Shot Dead in Restive South,” AFP, March 7, 2012. Available:
“One Soldier Killed and 4 Others Wounded in Attack Carried out by Gunmen on a Military Post in the City of Ataq,” Al Masdar Online, March 6, 2012. Available:
[3] “Madad News Agency Releases Issue 11 of Its Report on AQAP’s Activities,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 6, 2012. Available at SITE.
[4] “AQAP Claims Killing American Intelligence Officer in Aden,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 6, 2012. Available at SITE.
[5] “Jihadist Incites Yemenis to Kill US Ambassador,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 6, 2012. Available at SITE.
[6] Margaret Coker, Hakim Almasmari, and Julia E. Barnes, “U.S., Yemen Restart Training,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2012. Available:
[7] “Top Al-Shabab Leaders Meet in Southwestern Somalia Town,” Shabelle Media Network, March 7, 2012. Available:
[8] “7/7 Bomber’s Widow Linked to Al-Qaeda Is Sought in Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, March 7, 2012. Available:
[9] “Somalia: Al Shabab Radio Claims Responsibility of Journalist Assassinated in Galka’yo,” Raxanreeb, March 6, 2012. Available:
[10] Abdi Guled, “Turkish Airline Launches Landmark Mogadishu Flight,” AP, March 6, 2012. Available:
[11] Hussein Ali Noor, “Somali Pirates Want Prisoner Swap for Ship,” Reuters, March 6, 2012. Available:
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