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: Two bombs attributed to AQAP found aboard cargo planes in London and Dubai; USPS and FedEx announce suspension of mail to the U.S. from Yemen; woman arrested in connection with failed bomb plot released; John Brennan says the U.S. must presume that more bombs have yet to be discovered; repentant al Qaeda member leaked bomb plans to Saudi intelligence officials; Yemeni forces increase security throughout Sana’a; 14 al Qaeda militants turn themselves over in Abyan governorate; Britain rules out military intervention in Yemen; Yemeni Ministry of the Interior imposes an arms blockade on Sana’a; jihadist forum wonders if AQAP will attack U.S. on Halloween; 3 people killed and 7 injured in fighting between al Houthi rebels and pro-government tribe near Sa’ada; gunmen fire on two oil trucks in Lahij governorate; Yemen to increase airport security; U.S. officials warned of terrorists using the mail to execute terror plots

Horn of Africa: Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed approved as new PM of Somalia; al Shabaab attack on Mogadishu AU base leaves 15 dead, 20 wounded; fighting between TFG and al Shabaab kills two civilians, wounds three; TFG soldiers shoot at houses of National Somali singers, kill young boy and injure two others; al Shabaab attack on AU base in Hodan district in Mogadishu leaves six militants dead, more than 20 injured; roadside bomb attack on AU convoy in Mogadishu kills seven, wounds three, which followed fighting that killed three and wounding four; two landmine explosions in Waberi district in Mogadishu kill three people; Kenya will train 800 Somali police recruits; Kenya ignores UNHCR requests to move Somali refugees into camps in Northeastern Kenya; al Shabaab statement announces formation of Yazid battalion; al Shabaab claims responsibility for recent attacks in Banadir and Hiraan regions; Kenyan police close border between Mandera district and Beled Hawo; Puntland security forces publically execute 2 men for alleged ties to al Shabaab; UN denounces al Shabaab’s public execution of two young girls for spying; Somali pirates seize Liberian ship off Socotra coast; trial of 10 Somali pirates to begin in Germany

Yemen Security Brief

  • Two powerful bombs hidden in packages were discovered aboard cargo planes in Dubai and London on Friday after a tip from Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef set off an investigation.  The packages were shipped from Yemen and were addressed to synagogues in Chicago, although the intended location of the explosions is as of yet unknown.  While the plot unfolded, concerns that there may be more explosives onboard prompted American military jets to escort a passenger plane onto the tarmac at John F. Kennedy airport in New York and search all of the passengers and their luggage.  No bomb was found onboard.  The bombs discovered in Dubai and London were discovered hidden inside Hewlett-Packard desktop printer cartridges, and American officials are operating under the assumption that the explosives were the work of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan Asiri.  Asiri was responsible for manufacturing the explosives intended to detonate on a flight to Detroit last December 25.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also reported that the bombs may be associated with the Yemen-American Institute for Languages-Computer Management or the American Center for Training and Development, deepening concerns of the involvement of foreign participants in the attack.  American officials believe that American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki is likely behind the plot, one official saying, “We know Awlaki has taken a very specific interest in plotting against the United States, and we’ve found that he’s usually behind any attempted attack on American targets.”[1]

  •  The United States Postal Service and FedEx announced Saturday that they are temporarily suspending the acceptance of any international mail coming to the United States from Yemen.  Germany has also suspended all incoming packages from Yemen.[2]

  •  Yemeni officials reported that Hanan al Samawi, the young engineering student they had in custody for her role in mailing the bombs which were intercepted in London and Dubai, was falsely accused, and that the person who mailed the bombs stole her identity.  The student’s signature did not match that on the manifesto, and the shipping agent did not recognize the woman as the person who shipped the packages.  Sources say that Samawi was arrested unlawfully and was tortured by security officials during the investigation.  Her release indicates that Yemeni authorities have no one in custody in connection with the bomb plot.[3]

  •  U.S. counterterrorism advisor John Brennan says authorities “have to presume” that there may be more bomb plots similar to the ones foiled this weekend that haven’t yet been uncovered.  According the Brennan, the explosives were very sophisticated and could be remotely detonated, leading him to believe that the person who assembled them is “clearly someone who has a fair amount of training and experience and we need to find him and we need to bring him to justice.”  In a move to increase security, a team of U.S. TSA officials are going to Yemen to monitor their cargo security and TSA is increasing screening for all flights through November 8.[4]

  • New information has revealed that the man who might be responsible for alerting authorities to the al Qaeda bomb plot is a repentant al Qaeda member who turned himself in to authorities in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.  Following a stint at Guantanamo, Jabir Jubran al Fayfi went through rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia and then rejoined AQAP.[5]

  • Following two foiled bomb plots originating in Yemen, Yemeni forces increased security efforts throughout the capital, setting up new checkpoints, searching vehicles, and performing identity checks.  Increased security presence was also seen at seaports and airports.[6]

  • Yemen’s Defense Ministry reported that 14 al Qaeda militants, including senior members, turned themselves in to security officials in Abyan governorate.[7]

  • New British Chief of Defense Staff General Sir David Richards has ruled out military intervention in Yemen following the discovery of a bomb of Yemeni origin in a London airport, and said that the country cannot become the next Afghanistan.  Sir David said that Britain’s role is, “to help them where they most need it and in the meanwhile focus our efforts on Afghanistan and assisting Pakistan to make sure that they don’t become the threat that Yemen is clearly beginning to be.”[8]

  • The Yemeni Ministry of the Interior has imposed an arms blockade in Sana’a to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the capital of a country where guns currently outnumber people three to one.  All vehicles travelling from rural areas to Sana’a that are big enough to smuggle weapons will be searched at checkpoints.[9]

  • In a post on Shumukh al Islam, a jihadist forum, on October 30 a jihadist wondered if al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would try to strike the U.S. on Halloween in the same way that it did on Christmas in 2009, in order to make every holiday a “day of terror on morale.”  The jihadist proposed the idea that the U.S.-bound explosives discovered on Friday could be decoys for what AQAP is really planning or could be “gifts” meant to inflict fear in the U.S. on Halloween.[10]

  • At least three people were killed and seven more injured in fighting between al Houthi rebels and a pro-government clan in al Nushoor village near Sa’ada.  An al Houthi attack on the al Awjari clan resulted in a two-hour gunfight.[11]

  • Armed gunmen fired on two oil trucks on their way from Aden to Taiz in Lahij governorate on Friday night.  One of the vehicles was burned and the other was damaged, but no one was injured in the attacks.[12]

  • Yemen’s National Committee for Civil Aviation Security met on Sunday to discuss heightened security.  New security search measures will be applied to all outgoing packages and the committee affirmed that its communication with international security agencies will be a top priority.[13]

  • Reports have surfaced following this weekend’s uncovered bomb plot that last month U.S. intelligence officials warned that terrorists may be planning carry out operations against the U.S. and other western countries using mail services.[14]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was approved as the new Prime Minister of Somalia in a parliament vote on Sunday.  Lawmaker voted 297-92 in favor of Mohamed.[15]

  • Following parliament’s vote of approval for the new Somali Prime Minister, insurgents attacked an AU peacekeepers’ base in Mogadishu with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, sparking a clash that left at least 15 people dead and 20 wounded.[16]

  • Fighting between al Shabaab and TFG troops near the Burundian military base at Jalle Siad military academy killed two civilians and wounded three others.  Locals claim that the fighting was initiated by al Shabaab.[17]

  • TFG soldiers fired bullets at houses of the National Somalia Singers of Waberi group at the Ex Fiyore compound in Mogadishu on Sunday, killing one young boy and injuring two others.[18]

  • An al Shabaab attack on an AU base in Hodan district left six militants dead and more than 20 injured.[19]

  • A roadside bomb attack on an AU convoy travelling on Warshadaha Street in Mogadishu left at least seven people dead and three others wounded, including peacekeeping forces.  One of the trucks was completely destroyed.  Following the explosion, an al Shabaab-TFG clash left three civilians dead and four wounded.[20]

  • Two landmine explosions in Waberi district in Mogadishu killed at least 3 people.  The first bomb exploded as a police van drove past 21 October School, although no one was injured in this explosion.  The second bomb exploded as police returned to investigate the scene, killing two policemen and a pedestrian.  A number of suspects have been seized, but as of yet no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.[21]

  • Kenya announced that it will train 800 Somali police recruits.  200 will undergo a three-month training mission in Manyani and the other 600 will be trained in Djibouti.[22]

  • Kenya has ignored requests by the UNHCR to move thousands of displaced Somalis to refugee camps in Northeastern Kenya.  Provincial Commissioner for Kenya’s North Eastern Province David Ole Serian claimed that the requests were not justified as the refugees did not want to be moved from border camps to the ones in the Northeast, and that the camps were already too congested to accommodate thousands more refugees.[23]

  • Al Shabaab released a statement declaring the formation of a battalion named for an al Qaeda leader who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan, Mustafa Abu al Yazid, also known as Sheikh Saeed al Masri.  The battalion is composed of recent graduates from a Special Forces group in Mogadishu.  Just days after its formation on October 23, the Yazid battalion raided a Ugandan military barrack in Mogadishu and took the body of a dead Ugandan soldier.[24]

  • Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for recent attacks in Banadir and Hiraan regions in Somalia.  The attack on Elgal in Hiraan took place on October 22, when al Shabaab militants bombed two convoys of enemy forces.[25]

  • Kenyan police closed the border between Mandera district and Beled Hawo after al Shabaab regained control of the Somali border town.[26]

  •  Puntland security forces publically executed two men by firing squad in Boosaaso for alleged ties to al Shabaab.  Local human rights groups claim that the two men were innocent, and were being persecuted based on clan affiliation, both of them belonging to minority clans in Somaliland.  This is the first time that Puntland has made such an execution in public.[27]

  •  The United Nations envoy for Somalia denounced al Shabaab’s execution of two young girls in Beledweyne accused of spying for the TFG.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative Augustine Mahiga said, “The public summary execution of these two young women, with no recourse for legal defense protection, is a horrific act which demonstrates the extremists’ complete disregard for human life, particularly of the vulnerable.”[28]

  • Somali pirates have seized a Liberian ship off the coast of Socotra in the Indian Ocean.  The ship has 24 crew members on board.[29]

  • The trial of 10 Somali pirates arrested in April for hijacking a German cargo ship will begin in Germany on November 2.  Because officials were unable to determine the ages of three of the men, the trial proceedings will take place in a youth court.[30]

[1] “U.S. Sees Complexity of Bombs as Link to al Qaeda,” New York Times, October 30, 2010. Available: ; “Mail Bombs in Dubai Sent on 2 Passenger Planes,” AP, October 31, 2010. Available:
[2] “Postal Service Nixes International Mail from Yemen,” AP, October 30, 2010. Available: ; “Mail Bombs in Dubai Sent on 2 Passenger Planes,” AP, October 31, 2010. Available:
[3] “Yemen Official: Arrested Woman Didn’t Mail Bombs,” AP, October 31, 2010. Available: ; “HOOD: Female Suspect in Package Plot Tortured and Abused,” Yemen Post, October 31, 2010. Available:
[4] “White House: Could be More Mail Bombs,” AP, October 31, 2010. Available:
[5] “Bombs Tip-Off ‘Came From Former al-Qaeda Member’,” BBC, November 1, 2010. Available:
[6] “Yemen Clamps Down After Parcel Bomb Plot,” Reuters, October 30, 2010. Available:
[7] “Yemen Says 14 al-Qaeda Suspects Surrender,” AFP, November 1, 2010. Available:
[8] “Yemen ‘Must Not Become New Afghanistan’,” BBC, November 1, 2010. Available:
[9] “Arms Blockade Imposed on Sana’a,” Yemen Observer, October 30, 2010. Available:
[10] “Jihadist Wonders of al-Qaeda Strike on Halloween,” SITE Intel Group, October 31, 2010. Available at SITE.
[11] “Three People Killed, Seven Injured in Clashes Between Houthis and Pro-State Clan,” Yemen Post, October 30, 2010. Available:
[12] “Gunmen Open Fire on Oil Trucks; One Burned but no Casualties,” Yemen Post, October 30, 2010. Available:
[13] “Yemen Takes Stricter Security Procedures in Local Airports,” Saba Net, October 31, 2010. Available:
[14] “US Warned of Mail Bomb Terror Tactic Last Month,” AP, October 30, 2010. Available:
[15] “Somali-American Picked as Prime Minister,”, November 1, 2010. Available:
[16] “15 Killed During Somali Insurgent Attack,” AP, November 1, 2010. Available:
[17] “Sporadic Gun Battle Kills Civilians in Mogadishu,” Mareeg Online, October 31, 2010. Available:
[18] “TFG Soldiers Kill a Boy, Injure 2 Others at Houses of National Singers in Mogadishu,” Mareeg Online, October 31, 2010. Available:
[19] “Six Militants Killed in Mogadishu Fighting,” All Headline News, October 31, 2010. Available:
[20] “Roadside Bomb Targeting AMISOM Leaves 7 Dead in Somalia,” All Headline News, October 30, 2010. Available:
[21] “Landmine Explosion Kills 3 in Somalia,” All Headline News, November 1, 2010. Available:
[22] “Kenya to Train 800 Somalia Policemen,” Daily Nation, November 1, 2010. Available:
[23] “Kenya Resists Moving Somalis to Refugee Camps,” Mareeg Online, November 1, 2010. Available:
[24] “Shabaab Declares Mustafa Abu al-Yazid Battalion, Claims Attacks,” SITE Intel Group, October 29, 2010. Available at SITE.
[25] Ibid.
[26] “Kenya Closes its Border With Somalia’s Beledhawo,” Sunatimes, October 31, 2010. Available:
[27] “SOMALIA: Puntland Arrests Two Men Accused of Terrorism,” Somaliland Press, November 1, 2010. Available:
[28] “UN Envoy Condemns Execution of Somali Women Accused of Spying,” UN News Centre, October 29, 2010. Available:
[29] “Somali Pirates Capture Liberian-Owned Cargo Ship with 24 Crew, EU Anti-Piracy Force Says,” AP, October 30, 2010. Available:
[30] “10 Alleged Somali Pirates to be Tried in Germany,” AP, November 1, 2010. Available:
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