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 continues offensive in south; Southern Movement leader calls for foreign support to fight AQAP; AQAP releases English chant to incite violence against those who insult Prophet Mohammed; Madad News Agency details mediation efforts to release the 73 Yemeni soldiers captured in Zinjibar in March; 160,000 internally displaced persons as a result of violence in Abyan

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian commander says that Ethiopia will remain in Somalia until al Shabaab is defeated; al Shabaab’s Mogadishu commander reportedly denounces the militant group; al Shabaab conducts defensive drills preparing for TFG-Kenyan assault; Ethiopian court rules that 11 people will face terror charges

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Yemeni military reported that the six-day death toll resulting from the government-led offensive in Abyan governorate has risen to 150 people. On May 17, tribal fighters, backed by Yemeni troops, allegedly recaptured and secured Lawder. The Yemeni military is reportedly refocusing its efforts on Zinjibar and Jaar, two Ansar al Sharia strongholds. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has recently vowed to continue to fight al Qaeda-linked militants “until we have eradicated their presence in every district, village and position.”[1]
  • Southern Movement leader Ali Salem al Beidh said foreign governments should support the secessionist movement in the south in a May 16 interview. He pledged that the southerners would eradicate al Qaeda’s affiliates from south Yemen. Beidh added that his movement was open to support from any country in the region, including Iran, to advance his movement’s cause. With regards to the popularity of his movement, Beidh stated, “Ninety percent of southerners, whatever their political affiliations, are in agreement about getting back their state, not secession, because we offered it up voluntarily in service of a greater project, and have been occupied since.”[2]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video featuring an English-language chant by Abu Shiddah on jihadist forums on May 17 titled, “The Dust Will Never Settle Down.” The chant threatens people who propagate cartoons of Prophet Mohammed and incites violence against those who insult him: “May my mother be bereaved for you / And may Allah raise an army too / To bring the final end to kuffâr / For insulting you with their tongues too far.”[3]
  • Madad News Agency reported on recent Ansar al Sharia activities in its 18th issue released on jihadist forums on May 10. The issue continued to focus on the negotiations calling for the release of the 73 Yemeni soldiers captured in an attack in Zinijbar on March 4 (the soldiers have since been released). Yemeni cleric Awad Muhammad Ba Nijar was part of the mediation efforts and praised Ansar al Sharia governance, saying it reminds him of the “golden age” of Islam. The issue also focuses on the captive soldiers’ reactions to their imprisonment. One soldier claims that the Yemeni government misrepresents al Qaeda-linked militants as criminals, when in actuality they are “people with goodness and Islamic forgiveness.”[4]
  • Chief of the Executive Unit of Refugee Affairs Ahmed al Kohlany stated that 160,000 residents have been displaced as a result of the recent violence between the Yemeni Army and Ansar al Sharia militants in Abyan governorate. Kohlany added that the food aid provided by the World Food Program (WFP) is not enough to alleviate the intensifying crisis.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Jeneral John, the commander of Ethiopian forces in Bay and Bakool regions, declared that his troops will soon clear al Shabaab from those regions. John added that Ethiopia will not withdraw until al Shabaab is eliminated. Finally, John stated that his troops are committed to capturing the port city of Kismayo.[6]
  • Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein, al Shabaab’s leader in Mogadishu, reportedly denounced the militant group and asked for amnesty on May 17. He offered to publicly ask for forgiveness from the people of Mogadishu.[7]
  • Local residents have reported that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Kenyan forces have arrived on the outskirts of militant-held Qoqani in Lower Jubba region. Al Shabaab is conducting defensive drills in preparation for an assault.[8]
  • Ethiopia’s federal court ruled on May 17 that 11 people accused of forming a terrorist cell in the country in collaboration with al Shabaab will face terror charges. The cell was reportedly planning to carry out attacks against political and economic institutions in Ethiopia.[9]         

[1] Iona Craig, “Toll Climbs in Yemen’s Fight against al-Qaeda,” USA Today, May 18, 2012. Available:
[2] Joseph Logan, “Yemeni Secessionist Dangles Pledge to Fight al Qaeda,” Reuters, May 17, 2012. Available:
[3] “AQAP Releases English Chant Inciting Revenge for Muhammad,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 17, 2012. Available at SITE.
[4] “Madad Reports on Events during Mediation for Captives’ Release,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 17, 2012. Available at SITE.
[5] “Nearly 160.000 Person Displaced from Abyan,” Yemen Post, May 17, 2012. Available:
[6] “Ethiopia: Southern Somali Regions will no Longer Under Al Shabab Control,” Shabelle Media Network, May 18, 2012. Available:
[7] “Al Shabaab’s Mogadishu Man Denounces His Militant Group,” Bar Kulan, May 17, 2012. Available:
[8] “Tensions Prevail in Southern Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, May 18, 2012. Available:
[9] “Ethiopian Court Says 11 will Face Terror Charges,” AP, May 17, 2012. Available:
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