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 military launches offensive to recapture Zinjibar; two airstrikes kill 11 suspected AQAP militants in Ma’rib governorate; Bulgarian ambassador to Yemen escapes kidnapping attempt in Sana’a; John Brennan meets with President Hadi in Sana’a; AQAP releases posthumous jihadist guide from Samir Khan; AQAP releases English-language booklet containing “methodological instructions, words, and poetry” from bin Laden; Madad News Agency releases video showing mediation for the release of the 73 Yemeni soldiers captured on March 4 in Zinjibar
Horn of Africa: Ayman al Zawahiri urges Somalis to wage jihad against “Crusader allies”; al Shabaab militants storm TFG-Kenyan base in Lower Jubba; unknown assailants throw hand grenades in two separate incidents in Mogadishu; landmine targets Ethiopian convoy in Beledweyne; Kenyan police release photographs of German al Shabaab suspect and arrest an alleged Swedish accomplice; TFG authorities capture Tanzanian al Shabaab fighter in Hosingow; young man with explosives arrested in Mogadishu; al Shabaab posts twenty communiqués claiming responsibility for attacks and other activities; former al Shabaab commander will testify for U.S. government in summer trial
Yemen Security Brief
- The Yemeni military launched an offensive consisting of both ground and air engagements to recapture Zinjibar from Ansar al Sharia militants in Abyan governorate on May 12. The operations to recapture Zinjibar were carried out with “U.S. logistical support,” said a Yemeni military official. Al Masdar Online reported that 25,000 soldiers and officers from eight different brigades participated in the operation, including the 25th and 201st Mechanized Brigades, the 31st Armored Mechanized Brigade, the 39th Armored Brigade, and the 111th, 115th, 119th and 135th Infantry Brigades. Tribal and Yemeni sources reported that as many as 37 al Qaeda-linked militants and 12 soldiers were killed in two days of fighting. Another tribal source reported that 10 militants were killed by an air raid on suspected militant hideouts in the coastal town of Shaqra on May 14. On the same day, the Yemeni army also reportedly fired missiles at a moving vehicle near Lawder killing six militants. A Yemeni government official stated that the militants responded to the offensive by blowing up a gas pipeline near Mayfaa that supplies Belhaf in Shabwah governorate on May 13.
- Yemeni security officials reported that two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Ma’rib governorate killed 11 al Qaeda-linked militants. The first drone strike hit a car traveling in a convoy with two other cars between Shabwah and Ma’rib governorates in Huraib and killed seven militants, including an Egyptian national, Yemeni officials said. The other cars escaped unharmed and reportedly continued towards southern Abyan governorate. The officials added that three of the seven militants killed were senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members. The same officials reported another strike in Ma’rib governorate approximately 30 minutes later that killed four militants.
- Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov confirmed that the Bulgarian ambassador to Yemen Boris Borisov escaped a kidnapping attempt while driving through Sana’a on May 13. Four masked gunmen stopped Borisov’s car, but he managed to flee to a nearby shop. Borisov sustained minor injuries during the attack and will return to Sofia, Bulgaria for treatment, Mladenov added.
- John Brennan, the U.S. counter-terrorism advisor to President Obama, met with Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Sana’a on May 13. In a statement released by Yemen’s Embassy in Washington, Brennan reiterated America’s commitment to Yemen’s fight against al Qaeda-linked militants. He also commended Hadi for making “historical decisions during these critical times in modern day Yemen.”
- AQAP’s media wing al Malahem Foundation released a posthumous article by Samir Khan, an American jihadist who was killed on September 30, 2011 with Anwar al Awlaki, detailing what mujahideen are to expect on the battlefields on radical Islamist forums on May 13. Al Malahem described the publication as a “must read document” for Muslims living in the West. In the guide, Khan describes the day to day activities of a mujahid, including traveling between bases, training, assisting fellow fighters, and dealing with airstrikes and injuries. Khan also urges Muslims in the West to carry out “backyard” attacks: “I strongly recommend all the brothers and sisters coming from the West to consider attacking America in its own backyard. The effect is much greater, it always embarrasses the enemy, and these type [sic] of individual decision-making attacks are nearly impossible for them to contain.”
- AQAP released an English-language booklet titled, “In Remembrance of Usama,” containing “methodological instructions, words and poetry” from Osama bin Laden on jihadist forums on May 11. In the foreword, al Malahem Foundation describes the release as such: “In this invaluable collection we draw upon some of the Shaykh’s instructions and quotes which were published in his days. We have proudly translated them so that benefit is achieved. We hope this will be an eye-opener for those who aren't yet familiar with the mujahideen's cause.”
- Madad News Agency, Ansar al Sharia’s media arm, released its 12th installment of the series, “Eye on the Event” on jihadist forums on May 11. The video shows a delegation of scholars and tribal officials negotiating with Ansar al Sharia for the release of the 73 Yemeni soldiers captured on March 4 in Zinjibar (the soldiers have since been released). AQAP’s spiritual leader Ibrahim al Rubaish was one of the attendees and states, “We are Ansar al-Shariah, and we are not united by color, ethnicity, lineage, or country, but by the word of 'There is No God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda core in Pakistan, gave a speech entitled “O Lions of Somalia, Do Jihad Against the Descendants of Abu Raghal,” posted on jihadist forums on May 11. Zawahiri condemned the February London Conference on Somalia, whose intent was “to assist the Crusaders against the monotheists, strengthen the disbelievers against the believers, and open to the enemies of Islam the Muslim lands.” He urged the Muslims of Somalia to wage jihad against the “Crusader allies” and “apostate gangs” by using guerrilla warfare.
- Al Shabaab militants attacked a joint Transitional Federal Government (TFG)-Kenyan base on the outskirts of Badhadhe in Lower Jubba region overnight. Eyewitnesses reported that six combatants, from both sides, were killed in the fighting.
- Unknown assailants hurled hand grenades in two separate incidents in Mogadishu on the night of May 12. The first attack targeted a TFG base at Bar Ubah junction, killing at least three civilians and wounding two others. The second attack, at “30 venues,” caused an unconfirmed number of casualties.
- A landmine went off in eastern Beledweyne in Hiraan region, targeting an Ethiopian military convoy. The number of casualties is not yet known.
- Kenyan police released photographs of a German man allegedly connected to al Shabaab on May 12. The man, Ahmed Khaled Mueller, is believed to have illegally entered Kenya. On May 14, a Swedish national, Magd Najjar, was arrested in Nairobi. Kenyan police reported that Najjar was Mueller’s accomplice.
- TFG authorities arrested Ali Bakaari, a Tanzanian member of al Shabaab, while traveling on a bus from Kismayo to the Kenyan border. The bus was stopped in Hosingow in Lower Jubba, near the Kenyan border, and Bakaari was taken into custody. Bakaari allegedly has ties with al Shabaab leaders in Kismayo.
- The TFG’s National Security Service (NSS) arrested a young man, Abdirahman Farah Mohamed, in Mogadishu’s Hodan district. Mohamed had explosives and, according to authorities, intended to plant them in the car of the representative of Heliwa, a district of Mogadishu.
- Al Shabaab posted two sets of communiqués on jihadist forums detailing the militant group’s activities: twelve on May 3 and eight on May 7. Among the most important attacks claimed were the attempted assassination of an American official visiting African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops in Mogadishu and a suicide bombing in Dhusamareb in Galgudud region that killed a TFG official who allegedly planned the 2008 assassination of al Shabaab commander Aden Hashi Farah Ayro.
- A former al Shabaab commander has become a cooperative witness and will testify for the U.S. government in a trial this summer in Manhattan. His status as a former al Shabaab insider is expected to give greater legitimacy to the prosecution against Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, an Eritrean accused of conspiring with al Shabaab.