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 May 21 Sana’a suicide bombing and May 20 attack on American military trainers, suicide bomber in May 21 Sana’a attack is identified; AQAP deputy praises al Shabaab and AQIM leaders; continued clashes between Yemeni government forces and Ansar al Sharia militants in Abyan governorate; President Hadi orders an intensification of Abyan offensive; police break up Southern Movement protest in al Mukalla;  clashes break out between Saleh supporters and security forces in Sana’a; Saudis pledge $3.25 billion in aid to Yemen; leader of Yemen’s Jewish community stabbed to death in Sana’a

Horn of Africa: AMISOM and TFG forces continue offensive to expel al Shabaab from Lower Shabelle; UN special envoy to Somalia states notes success in recent offensive; young al Shabaab boy shot while planting landmines in Mogadishu; al Shabaab reports that Ethiopian soldier defected and converted to Islam in one of ten communiqués

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the May 21 Sana’a suicide bombing as well as the May 20 attack on three American civilian trainers in al Hudaydah on May 22. AQAP said that the suicide attack was in retaliation for protesters’ deaths, for the military operations against Ansar al Sharia in Abyan, and for the imprisonment of its operatives. A Yemeni newspaper, Al Yemen al Yawm (Yemen Today), identified the suicide bomber as Ameen Addin Ali al Wirafi from Ibb governorate. Wirafi was arrested in 2007 for his ties to al Qaeda and for alleged attempts to carry out suicide attacks against government installations in Ma’rib and Hadramawt governorates.[1]
  • AQAP deputy leader Said al Shihri, also known as Abu Sufyan al Azdi, praised al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander Abu Musab Abdul Wadud in a video posted on jihadist forums on May 22. He honors them for pledging allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, the commander of al Qaeda’s core in Pakistan, and says, “We are very happy about your victories and conquests and Allah’s guidance to you to implement the Shariah of Allah on Allah’s Earth.”[2]
  • Clashes between Yemeni government soldiers and Ansar al Sharia militants in Bajidar, a militant-held town in Abyan governorate, killed 22 militants and seven soldiers. Meanwhile, Yemeni military jets and heavy artillery bombarded militant positions near Zinjibar and Jaar.[3]
  • President Hadi ordered military units to intensify the offensive in Abyan governorate to clear the area of al Qaeda-linked militants. Military commanders attributed the delay in seizing Zinjibar and Jaar to limiting casualties among civilians, who they report are being used as human shields by Ansar al Sharia. Yemeni security authorities are concerned about the threat of Ansar al Sharia infiltration into security agencies and the military and said they will implement a screening process of new recruits.[4]
  • Supporters of the Southern Movement demonstrated on National Day, the anniversary of Yemen’s 1990 unification, in the capital of Hadramawt governorate. Clashes broke out and at least one protester was killed and seven others injured. Demonstrations also occurred in Lahij, Dhaleh, and Aden governorates.[5]
  • Clashes broke out between supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and security forces in Sana’a’s al Tahrir neighborhood. The security forces were trying to remove the armed Saleh loyalists, who had blocked off Ali Abd al Mughni Street. Local sources reported that two people were killed and several others wounded in the fighting.[6]
  • Saudi Arabia pledged to give $3.25 billion in aid to Yemen at a Friends of Yemen conference in Riyadh, which was aimed at helping Yemen to attain economic stability.[7]
  • Harun Yufus Zindani, a leader of the Jewish community in Yemen, was stabbed to death in a Sana’a market on May 22. The assailant, reportedly a local vendor of qat, allegedly shouted, "You Jew, you have hurt my business with your sorcery,” when he attacked Zindani.[8]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Somali officials reported that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops, backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, continued their offensive named “Operation Free Shabelle” in Lower Shabelle region. TFG military officer General Yusuf Osman stated that the allied forces captured ground near Afgoi district, including Carbiska. An AMISOM press release noted that AMISOM forces also captured al Fitr town, five kilometers north of Mogadishu, after pushing from their positions in Maslah. The statement also added that a senior al Shabaab commander yet to be identified was killed along with his escort during fighting on May 22.[9]
  • UN Special Ambassador to Somalia Augustine Mahiga said that the joint TFG-AMISOM offensive on the outskirts of Mogadishu on May 22 was successful. Mahiga added that al Shabaab has lost significant territory in south and central Somalia due to increased pressure from TFG and AMISOM while addressing Somalia roadmap signatories in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Local residents between Afgoi and Mogadishu reported that an “unstable calm” has returned to areas. Ten people were reportedly killed and 12 were injured in the day-long attack.[10]
  • The Somali Police Force reportedly displayed the body of a young boy belonging to al Shabaab in Mogadishu. Somali police spokesman Abdullahi Hassan Barise stated that the boy was shot overnight after security forces caught him planting landmines in Bakara Market in Mogadishu’s Hodan district.[11]
  • Al Shabaab’s media wing al Kata’ib Media Foundation released ten communiqués on jihadist forums on May 22. In one of the ten communiqués, al Shabaab reports the surrender and conversion of an Ethiopian sniper, renamed Abdullah, who was stationed in Bay and Bakool regions on May 18. Al Shabaab provided 11 pictures of the soldier during his conversion ceremony in a mosque in Lafole district in Lower Shabelle region.[12]

[1] “AQAP Claims Suicide Bombing in Sana’a, Striking American Trainers,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 22, 2012. Available at SITE. 
“Newspaper: Al-Sabeen Suicide Bomber was an Al-Qaeda Prisoner,” Yemen Post, May 23, 2012. Available:
[2] “AQAP Deputy Leader Praises AQIM, Shabaab Leaders,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 22, 2012. Available at SITE.
[3] Ahmed al Haj, “22 Al-Qaida Militants Killed in Yemen Fighting,” AP, May 23, 2012. Available:
[4] “Hadi Orders the Army to Intensify the Offensive in Abyan and ‘Filter’ New Recruits out of Fear of al Qaeda Penetration of Security Apparatus,” Al Masdar Online, May 23, 2012. Available:
“‘Filtering’ of Recruits in Yemen and Presidential Orders to Speed Up Offensive,” Al Khaleej, May 23, 2012. Available:
[5] “Protester Shot Dead as Yemen Remains on Knife-Edge,” AFP, May 22, 2012. Available:
[6] “Clashes Between Saleh Supporters and Security Forces in al Tahrir in Sana’a and Reports of Death and Injuries,” Al Masdar Online, May 23, 2012. Available:
[7] Angus McDowall, “Saudis Pledge $3.25 Billion Aid to Qaeda-Hit Yemen,” Reuters, May 23, 2012. Available:
[8] “Yemeni Jew Stabbed to Death in Sanaa Dies from Wounds,” AFP, May 23, 2012. Available:
Roi Kais, “Yemen: Jewish Community Leader Stabbed to Death ,” YNet News, May 23, 2012. Available:,7340,L-4232834,00.html
[9] “Somali, African Union Forces Spread Ground beyond Mogadishu,” Shabelle Media Network, May 23, 2012. Available:
“AMISOM Troops on Outskirts of Al-Shabaab Stronghold,” AMISOM, May 23, 2012. Available:
[10] “UN Envoy: Al Shabab Were Defeated in Somali Battles,” Shabelle Media Network, May 23, 2012. Available:
Peter Heinlein, “UN Envoy Sees Possible ‘Breakthrough’ in Somalia Talks,” Voice of America, May 22, 2012. Available:
“Precarious Calm Returns to Mogadishu Outskirts after Violence,” Shabelle Media Network, May 23, 2012. Available:
[11] “Somali Police Displays the Body of Suspected al Shabab Boy in Mogadishu,” Shabelle Media Network, May 23, 2012. Available:
[12] “Shabaab Announces Surrender, Conversion of Ethiopian Soldier,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 22, 2012. Available at SITE.
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