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: Ansar al Sharia militants ambush supply convoys near Zinjibar, detonate roadside bomb outside of Aden; U.S. drone strike targeting AQAP leader kills five militants in al Bayda governorate, Yemen military states that it has captured most of Zinjibar; clashes between Yemeni military forces and Ansar al Sharia near Jaar kill five militants and a civilian; dozens of Ansar al Sharia militants killed in Zinjibar and Jaar; Ansar al Sharia offers to release two foreign hostages in exchange for a truce, Yemeni official refuse; Madad dedicates its 19th report on AQAP activities to America’s “Crusader war” in Yemen; AQAP releases photograph of Sana’a suicide bomber
Horn of Africa: AMISOM, TFG forces recapture and secure Afgoi corridor from al Shabaab militants, al Shabaab vows to continue fight; bomb blast in Nairobi mall injures 33 people; TFG and KDF clash with al Shabaab militants in Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab commander and five suspected militants defect to TFG in Gedo and Hiraan regions respectively; unknown gunmen assassinate councilman in Mogadishu; six Djiboutian officials visit Beledweyne to make way for Djiboutian troops; two Danish brothers of Somali origin arrested on suspicion of plotting attack; al Shabaab releases fatwa signed by 25 Somali scholars against Somali draft constitution; Omar Hammami featured in audio lecture urging the formation of a global Islamic caliphate
Yemen Security Brief
- The Yemeni military’s offensive to recapture Zinjibar continued. Ansar al Sharia militants ambushed a supply convoy in Mazraat Mashhour, southwest of Zinjibar, killing three soldiers on May 29. Two militants were also killed in the fighting. Militants ambushed a separate military supply convoy northeast of Zinjibar. Three militants and three soldiers were killed in the fighting. A roadside bomb killed at least four soldiers at the al Alam checkpoint on the eastern outskirts of Aden. Eight Ansar al Sharia fighters and two Yemeni soldiers were killed near Jaar.
- A reported U.S. drone strike hit a three-car convoy near Rada’a in al Bayda governorate on May 28, killing five militants and wounding four. The targets of the strike were Qaid al Dhahab, a local leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and his brother Nabil. A tribal source reported that both men escaped unharmed. Elsewhere, six militants were killed in combat on the eastern outskirts of Zinjibar. An official reported that seven AQAP members were killed in an airstrike on a car traveling from Azzan in Shabwah governorate to al Mukallah, the capital of Hadramawt governorate. The dead included Saleh Abdul Khaleq, reported to be AQAP’s military chief in Hadramawt. Yemen military officials announced that their forces had captured 90 percent of Zinjibar.
- Five militants and a civilian were killed in fighting near Jaar on the night of May 27; one of the killed militants was reportedly Abdul Rahman al Musallami, a “mid-level commander” of Ansar al Sharia.
- Clashes between Yemeni military forces and Ansar al Sharia militants killed at least 27 militants and seven soldiers in separate battles near Zinjibar and in Jaar on the night of May 25 and the morning of May 26. Military sources later reported that at least 62 militants were killed in fighting on May 26. Yemeni Brigadier General Mohammed al Somali, the commander of the 25th Mechanized Brigade, reported that most of the militants killed near Zinjibar were Somalis. He also stated that his troops had “cleansed” the villages of Maraqid and Mashqasa of Ansar al Sharia fighters.
- Ansar al Sharia’s leaders asked the Yemeni military for a truce on May 27, promising to release two foreign hostages in exchange. The two hostages are Abdullah al Khalidi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden who was kidnapped on March 28, and Sylvia Abrahat, a Swiss teacher kidnapped on March 14. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, Yemen’s defense minister, categorically refused the offer. In a video released by AQAP’s media wing al Malahem Foundation, al Khalidi pleaded with King Abdullah to fulfill the group’s demands so that he could be released and return home.
- Madad News Agency dedicated its 19th report on AQAP activities to reporting on developments in the “Crusader war that Obama is launching in Yemen, a war in which the ruler of the White House uses his fleet of drones to kill Muslim men, elderly, women and children just for being suspicious…” The report was posted on jihadist forums on May 18.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a photograph of the perpetrator of the May 21 suicide bombing in Sana’a, Haitham Hameed Hussein Mufreh, on May 25. The bombing killed over 100 Yemeni soldiers.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces announced that they, along with Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops, have secured the Afgoi corridor on May 27. AMISOM’s press release notes that Elasha Biyaha, near Afgoi corridor, has also been secured on May 26. Somali military officials stated that 400 Afgoi residents have been arrested as a result of a security operation to weed out suspected al Shabaab militants on May 28. On May 29, TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed reportedly visited both Afgoi corridor and Elasha Biyaha market for the first time since he became president four years ago. Al Shabaab’s military spokesman Abdi Aziz Abu Mus’ab vowed to intensify attacks across the country in retaliation for the joint AMISOM-TFG offensive. Following al Shabaab’s “tactical retreat” from Afgoi corridor, Mus’ab said, “God willing we will continue the war and we will win the battle without doubt.”
- A bomb blast in a mall in downtown Nairobi, Kenya wounded 33 civilians on May 28. One wounded woman noted that a bearded man approached a kiosk three separate times, acting as though he was interested in buying something. She said that on his final visit, the man left behind a bag and the blast followed shortly afterwards. Finally, she added that the man was “Arabic-looking [sic],” because of his relatively light skin complexion. A doctor told Associated Press that another wounded man said that the man who left the bag behind was Somali-looking. U.S. Embassy in Nairobi spokesman John Haynes stated that the FBI helped investigate the blast site. A Kenyan official said that the smell of ammonia at the scene may indicate that a fertilizer bomb was used. While al Shabaab has not claimed responsibility for the attack, the militant group has previously threatened to attack Kenya ever since troops invaded Somalia in October 2011.
- Witnesses reported that clashes broke out between TFG soldiers, backed by Kenyan troops, and al Shabaab militants in Qoqani and Taabta in Lower Jubba region overnight on May 27, adding that three combatants from unspecified sides were killed in the attack.
- Elwaq district in Gedo region commissioner Ibrahim Gulied Adan confirmed that a senior al Shabaab military commander defected to the TFG on May 29. Adan added that the commander defected due to al Shabaab’s maltreatment of the local civilian population. The defected commander is being held in Elwaq’s police station. Separately, Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a commander in Mahas district in Hiraan region, Saney Mohamud Farah, confirmed that five suspected al Shabaab members surrendered a few days ago with AK-47s and grenades.
- Eyewitnesses reported that unknown gunmen shot and killed Noor Hashi, a Somali councilman, in Mogadishu’s Barwaqo district on May 27.
- Six Djiboutian officials reportedly arrived to Beledweyne in Hiraan region on May 28 to make way for Djiboutian troops under AMISOM to deploy.
- Denmark’s security service stated that two brothers who are Danish citizens of Somali origin suspected of “being in the process of preparing an act of terror,” were arrested on May 28. One of the suspects was arrested in the city of Aarhus, while the other was arrested as he arrived at Copenhagen’s international airport. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service, PET, reported that the two suspects raised suspicion when they were overheard discussing potential targets and weapons for a terror attack. PET added that one of the brothers had trained with al Shabaab in Somalia.
- Al Shabaab released a fatwa illustrating the incompatibility of the new Somali draft constitution with shari’a law signed by 25 Somali scholars through its media wing al Kata’ib Media Foundation on jihadist forums on May 19. The fatwa criticizes democratic principles and deems anyone who alters shari’a law an infidel. The fatwa also urges others to call on Muslims to face their “Crusader enemies and their apostate henchmen.”
- Omar Hammami released a 42-minute long audio lecture titled, “In Defense of the Khilaafa: The Next Stage,” uploaded in four parts on YouTube by Abu Muhammad as Somali, who has previously uploaded Hammami’s autobiography, on May 25. In the lecture, Hammami criticizes Islamist groups that begin in support of global jihad but then turn to local jihad once they no longer reap the “benefits of being part of the global jihad.”