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 air and artillery strikes kill ten militants in Abyan; Ansar al Sharia counterattack on Jaar outskirts kills 20 militants and seven soldiers; Yemeni troops capture militant-held positions on Jaar outskirts; Yemenis demonstrate on the anniversary of Taiz massacre; clerics meet with President Hadi and urge the central government to protect its citizens; AQAP releases communiqué affirming that it ordered the May 21 Sana’a suicide bomb attack; jihadist downplays importance of CIA’s thwarting of AQAP bomb plot, claiming that there are more such explosive devices; jihadist suggests burning tires and other objects to obscure drone cameras
Horn of Africa: TFG President Ahmed survives assassination attempt on Afgoi corridor; roadside bomb explodes in Galkayo; Kenyan warships shell Kismayo; al Shabaab claims to have killed three senior Kenyan commanders in ambush in Lower Jubba region; Nairobi police launch manhunt for two foreign suspects in connection with the May 28 Nairobi mall bombing; tensions reported among al Shabaab commanders in Middle Jubba village
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemeni military officials reported that three Ansar al Sharia militants were killed and seven others wounded in an airstrike on a militant communications center near Shaqra, a coastal town in Abyan governorate. In addition, army shelling of Jaar killed seven militants and wounded at least 12 others.
- Local sources reported that at least 20 Ansar al Sharia militants and seven Yemeni soldiers were killed when militants launched a counterattack on the military’s positions on the outskirts of Jaar. Four soldiers were also wounded in the attack. Local sources indicated that the 135th Infantry Brigade and 201st Mechanized Brigade succeeded in repulsing the assault and have increased pressure on militants in Jaar.
- A military official reported that Yemeni troops captured Ansar al Sharia-held positions on the outskirts of Jaar on May 29 and advanced to within one or two miles of the city.
- Yemenis took to the streets in several Yemeni cities on May 29 to mark the anniversary of a violent police suppression of demonstrators in Taiz. Forces under former Taiz security chief Abdullah Qairan killed more than 50 protestors on May 29, 2011.
- A group of clerics led by Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani, a U.S.-designated terrorist, met with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi on May 29 and urged the central government to do more to protect citizens. They suggested that the administrators of insecure areas should be replaced by more competent officials and demanded an end to violence throughout the country, including in Sa’ada and Abyan governorates, which are the sites of the al Houthi rebellion and an al Qaeda-linked insurgency respectively. The clerics called on all parties to participate in the national dialogue and issued a fatwa condemning the taking up of arms against the state.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a communiqué on May 29 denying a statement attributed to the group in the Yemeni media stating that the perpetrator of the May 21 suicide bombing, Haitham Hameed Hussein Mufreh, was a victim of a “network of Crusader agents in the National Security agency amongst those who infiltrated the mujahideen." Rather, AQAP confirmed that the “blessed operation came under the supervision of the emirs [leaders] of the organization and its military commanders.”
- A jihadist posted a statement on extremist forums on May 21 that the CIA’s foiling of an AQAP bombing plot earlier this month was not important because AQAP has several more explosive devices. Additionally, he wrote that Ibrahim al Asiri, AQAP’s chief bomb maker, is not the only expert on building such devices: the knowledge has been passed along and the U.S. is “stupid” to think it is facing one individual. The jihadist argues that the revelation of the plot benefited AQAP, because it created an atmosphere of fear that would cost the U.S. money and manpower.
- A jihadist suggested that mujahideen burn tires, garbage, and other objects to obscure drones’ cameras in a post on the Shumukh al Islam forum on May 27. He further suggested that masks be distributed to jihadist fighters and civilians near the burning objects to prevent smoke inhalation.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed survived an assassination attempt on May 29 when his convoy was ambushed by al Shabaab militants between Afgoi and Mogadishu. Ahmed had just visited Afgoi, a former al Shabaab stronghold that was captured by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and TFG forces on May 27. One TFG soldier was killed and at least four others were wounded in the initial attack. TFG and AMISOM soldiers returned fire, leading to a 30-minute battle during which President Ahmed was able to escape. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
- A roadside bomb exploded in northern Galkayo, the capital of Mudug region, killing at least six people, including three civilians. Security forces were attempting to defuse the bomb when it went off. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- The Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) reported that its warships shelled Kismayo after being fired upon by al Shabaab militants on the night of May 28. Cyrus Oguna, the commander of Kenyan forces in Somalia, said that this is the first time the Kenyan military has engaged al Shabaab militants in Kismayo, the most significant city under al Shabaab’s control. One house was reportedly hit by a shell and a child wounded.
- Abdul Aziz Abu Mus’ab, al Shabaab’s military spokesman, claimed that the group had killed three senior Kenyan commanders in an ambush on a military convoy near Afmadow in Lower Jubba region on May 29. Abu Mus’ab also reported that at least five military vehicles had been destroyed in the attack. Major Emmanuel Chirchir, the KDF’s spokesman, reported on May 30 that Afmadow and nearby Hayo fell to Kenyan military forces.
- Nairobi police have launched a manhunt targeting two foreign males in connection with the May 28 bombing of a Nairobi mall. One of the suspects was identified by police spokesman Eric Kiraithe as Emrah Erdogan, who is believed to be either a Turkish or German citizen, and a photograph of Erdogan was released.
- Tensions have been reported among al Shabaab commanders in Salagle village in Middle Jubba region. A new administration was reportedly instituted in the area, upsetting members of the old administration, who refused to step down. There are fears of an impending armed clash between the two sides.