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: Madad News Agency says AQAP claimed responsibility for May 21 suicide bombing; Yemeni forces clash with Ansar al Sharia on the outskirts of Jaar and Zinjibar; Yemeni police arrest two men with explosive belts under their uniforms hours after Sana’a bombing; Obama says he is “very concerned” about AQAP; missing Spanish policeman found dead; State Department and USAID officials discuss the need for humanitarian assistance for Yemen
Horn of Africa: Sierra Leonean troops arrive to Ethiopian-Somali border town for training; TFG, AMISOM clash with al Shabaab near Mogadishu; UN special representative to Somalia warns TFG politicians of interfering with NCA selection process; Ethiopian PM announces Ethiopian forces’ commitment to combating al Shabaab in southern Somalia; AMISOM hands over 33 military vehicles to SNA
Yemen Security Brief
- Madad News Agency, an outlet linked to Ansar al Sharia, reported on its Facebook page on May 21 that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the May 21 suicide bombing in Sana’a, which killed over 90 Yemeni soldiers. The statement claimed that the target of the operation was Yemen’s Minister of Defense, Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, and that the attack was a response to the military operation in Abyan. Additionally, the post cites the Central Security Forces’ violent reaction to Yemeni demonstrations as a reason behind the attack. It also reported that Ansar al Sharia claimed responsibility for the May 20 attack on three Americans in al Hudaydah.
- Yemeni military forces continue their operation to recapture Zinjibar from Ansar al Sharia. Two Yemeni soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded during fighting on the outskirts of Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan governorate on May 21. A military source reported that Yemeni troops, with aerial support, had surrounded Ansar al Sharia militants. The source also stated that the Ansar al Sharia had taken “heavy losses” in the fighting.
- Yemeni police reportedly arrested two men with explosive belts under their military uniforms only a few hours after the May 21 suicide attack in Sana’a. Each man was allegedly strapped with nearly 30 pounds of explosives. A Yemeni official reported that they planned to carry out follow-up attacks. The celebrations commemorating National Day, marking the 1990 unification of the country, took place as scheduled in Sana’a. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi attended a military parade, standing behind bulletproof glass and protected by extra security. The parade was moved from al Sab’een Square, the site of the suicide bombing, to the Air Force Academy in Sana’a.
- President Barack Obama said that he is “very concerned” about AQAP and that the U.S. will continue to cooperate with the Yemeni government to fight the terrorist group at a press conference following the NATO summit in Chicago. The U.S. State Department condemned the May 21 suicide attack in Sana’a and reiterated its commitment to a strategy that “emphasizes governance and economic development as well as counterterrorism efforts in Yemen. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan called President Hadi offered condolences for the attack and offered American assistance in investigating it.
- Antonio Cejudo, a Spanish policeman stationed at his country’s embassy in Sana’a, was found dead with a gunshot wound in the head. Cejudo was reported missing on May 17 and his body was found in a remote area with a sidearm next to it. The Spanish Interior Ministry would not say whether or not the case was being treated as a suicide.
- Kelly Clements, the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the State Department, and Christa Capozzola, the USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, spoke via teleconference on May 21 about the acute humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Capozzola reported that in this fiscal year, the U.S. has provided $73 million in humanitarian assistance, including over $47 million in emergency food assistance. Both Clements and Capozzola emphasized that humanitarian assistance is needed for Yemen’s economic and political development.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Somali officials said that clashes broke out between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops, backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, and al Shabaab militants in Elasha Biyaha, 30 kilometers south of Mogadishu. Local residents reported sounds of gun and mortar fire. The locals added that TFG soldiers captured the town of Sabbiyo, which lies nine kilometers north of Afgoi.
- The first contingent from the Sierra Leone National Army to join AMISOM has reportedly arrived to the Ethiopian-Somali border town of Dolow in Gedo region on May 18. The Sierra Leonean troops are training alongside Ugandan soldiers in preparation for deployment in Somalia’s southern regions.
- UN Special Ambassador to Somalia Augustine Mahiga demanded that TFG politicians stop meddling with Somalia’s selection process at Somalia’s roadmap conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 21. Mahiga accused TFG politicians of trying to sway the votes of traditional elders, who will pick the 825 members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). The NCA, along with 135 elders, will then be responsible for choosing members of the Somali parliament. Additionally, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole stated that he believes that the draft constitution needs to be amended, citing issues of over-centralization, the selection process of the NCA, and the traditional elders’ mandate. Sheikh Mohamed Yusuf Hefow, chairman of Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a’s executive council in central Somalia, stated that none of the group’s representatives are attending the conference. Both the Puntland administration and Ahlu Sunna are reportedly opposed to Somalia’s new draft constitution.
- Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) “are committed to strengthening the battle against al Shabaab in south central and southern Somalia,” on May 21. Zenawi indicated that the ENDF’s next operation may be to help conquer Kismayo, al Shabaab’s financial hub and primary stronghold.
- AMISOM announced that it handed 33 military vehicles over to the Somali National Army (SNA) to improve its logistics capabilities during a ceremony on May 18. Jerry John Rawlings, the AU High Representative for Somalia, reportedly attended the event. The press releases notes that the vehicles were donated by the U.S. government.
Mohammed Ghobari, “Somber Yemen Parade Takes Place after Huge Bomb Attack,” Reuters, May 22, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/22/us-yemen-idUSBRE84L0FB20120522