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 Shiites killed and eight wounded in attack on funeral convoy in north Yemen; AQAP claims responsibility for suicide bombing of Houthi rebels; terrorist killed in failed suicide bombing in Aden; Yemeni president covered up for U.S. missile attacks in Yemen; moderate preacher leading new government initiative to spread an alternative to the extremist version of Islam promoted by al Qaeda; Saudi head of Sa’ada hospital kidnapped on Monday; Saudi Arabian officials report 149 al Qaeda members arrested in last eight months; forums post Saudi jihadist’s letter written after joining AQAP; Houthi rebels accuse U.S. and Israeli officials of orchestrating last week’s attack on Shiites in al Jawf governorate; fighting erupts between soldiers and gunmen in Lahij governorate; Southern Movement supporters protest in Lahij governorate; Yemeni minister accuses nations of falsely classifying Yemen as a terrorist state; car bomber drives into Aden police station, killing himself and wounding three others
Horn of Africa: Parliament approves PM’s cabinet selection; Ugandan president visits Mogadishu to show support; TFG President calls for increased help from the international community; fighting in Mogadishu leaves 15 dead, 20 injured; Somali police almost ready to arrest six al Shabaab recruiters working in Kenya; Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces kill suspected al Shabaab militant in Mogadishu; UN identifies al Shabaab training camp in Kismayo for women; TFG General Secretary accuses Somali aid agencies of providing aid to the insurgents; Minneapolis-based Somali lawyer killed in Mogadishu; TFG troops intercept weapons being transported to al Shabaab; five Somali men convicted on piracy charges in Virginia; Somali pirates hijack Malaysian ship; al Shabaab reshuffles leadership in Beled Hawo
Yemen Security Brief
- Moderate preacher Amr Khaled is leading a new government initiative to spread moderate ideologies to Yemeni youth as an alternative to al Qaeda’s extremist ones. Khaled said, “The project seeks to uproot extremism and spread moderation, the real face of Islam, and present the bright image of Yemen to the whole world not through Yemen’s allies, whose role is the push forward the Yemeni youth, but through the youths themselves, who should take the initiative to stop extremism and spread moderation.”
- At least two Shiites were killed and eight more wounded in an attack on their convoy heading to Sa’ada to attend a funeral. The mourners were members of a group that supports the Shiite Houthi rebels. The funeral was for Badr al Din al Houthi, the spiritual leader of the al Houthi rebel group to which the victims belonged.
- In a communiqué released on jihadist forums on November 28, AQAP claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting the Houthi rebels and promised more attacks on the Shiite group. AQAP told Sunnis in this statement that they must recognize the threat posed by the Shiites and the fact that the government would not protect them. AQAP claimed that they had “formed special units to protect our Sunni brothers in a series of operations to uproot the despicable plant that the Iranian Shiites planted in Sa’ada and its surroundings.”
- A terrorist was killed and two people were wounded in a failed suicide bombing in Aden on Sunday. The bomber was en route to the al Mimdara police station in a taxi to plant the bomb, which detonated prematurely, killing the bomber and injuring his taxi driver and one other person.
- Some of the U.S. diplomatic cables leaked to the website WikiLeaks this weekend claim that the Yemeni government covered for the U.S., who has been conducting missile attacks against al Qaeda members in Yemen. In one cable, Yemeni president Saleh told U.S. General David Petraeus, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” and in another Yemen’s deputy PM said he had lied to parliament by claiming responsibility for the attacks.
- Dhafer al Shahrani, the Saudi head of al Salam hospital in Sa’ada governorate, was kidnapped by gunmen on Monday. Details of the kidnappers’ demands are unknown, but they did demand the release of militants that are being held in Saudi Arabia.[6
- Saudi Arabian counterterrorism officials claim to have captured 149 al Qaeda suspects in the last eight months, some of whom have affiliations with AQAP. The captured militants belong to 19 different cells and 124 of them are Saudi nationals. Interior Ministry Spokesman General Mansour al Turki said the cells were transporting Saudis out of the country for training. $597,000 was confiscated from the captured militants.
- A jihadist posted a letter from a Saudi Abu Abdullah al Najdi on the Shumukh al Islam forum. The jihadist said he received the letter shortly after al Najdi came to Yemen to join AQAP. Al Najdi said in the letter that all AQAP needs is money and resources and “if it were available, they would liberate the Peninsula from the filth of the tyrants.”
- Houthi rebels accused U.S. and Israeli intelligence services of orchestrating last week’s attack in al Jawf that killed 24 Shiites. U.S. envoy Gerald Michael Feierstein, who was also blamed for funding tribal sheikhs and leaders in the hopes of inciting sectarian conflict, said that the Houthis’ accusations “were utterly ridiculous and baseless.”
- Fighting erupted in Habilain district in Lahij governorate after soldiers arrested separatist Muhsen al Suhaibi on Sunday. The arrests provoked gunmen to lay siege to a military camp in Habilain district and take two soldiers hostage, giving the soldiers 24 hours to release al Suhaibi.
- Hundreds of Southern Movement supporters protested in Habilain district in Lahij governorate on Thursday, carrying pictures of Gulf leaders and chanting separation slogans.
- Yemen’s Minister of Endowment Hamoud al Hitar accused foreign nations of falsely classifying Yemen as a terrorist country, saying that in reality “the situation [with al Qaeda] is under control.” Hitar said, “an external intervention will only unify Yemenis against any military action from outside.”
- A car bomber drove into a police station in Aden on Sunday, killing himself and wounding three officers.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- The TFG Parliament approved Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s newly-appointed 18 person cabinet this weekend. 251 lawmakers voted for the cabinet and 92 voted against it.
- Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni visited Mogadishu this weekend to show his support for the war-torn nation. Museveni, whose country has contributed a large portion of the AMISOM peacekeeping troops, met with the TFG president and PM as well as members of the peacekeeping force.
- President of the TFG Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed called Monday for increased help from the international community in improving the security situation in Somalia. He said, “The situation of the country is very serious indeed, so the government need more support from the international community to achieved the restoration of the peace and stability. The government is ready for doing that quickly.”
- Fighting began between al Shabaab and TFG and AMISOM troops in Mogadishu on Monday when al Shabaab attacked government bases in Hodan district. At least 15 have been killed and 20 injured in the fighting.
- Following the arrest of six youths trying to enter Somalia from Kenya to join al Shabaab last week, police say that they may soon be able to arrest six recruiters working from Mombasa. A senior anti-Terrorism officer said, “It is true we have a number of al Shabaab recruiters and we are about to complete our investigations before we go after them.”
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces killed a man suspected of ties with al Shabaab in Mogadishu. The man was killed in Dharkenley district in Eldere neighborhood.
- A UN report identified an al Shabaab training camp in Kismayo where 120 Somali women are being trained in intelligence gathering, transportation of explosives, driving, or are being recruited to marry al Shabaab militants. An al Shabaab leader Sheikh Hassan Yaqub said, “The recruiters were teenagers who need to be trained more, so that they participate fighting against our enemies [AMISOM] because every Muslim is must join the jihad.”
- TFG General Secretary Abdikafi Hilowle Osman accused Somali aid agencies of providing aid to the insurgent group al Shabaab instead of the civilians. Hilowle said, “We urging the agencies to stop distributing aid to the al Shabaab, but help the refugees who live where the government controls.”
- Minneapolis-based Somali lawyer Bashir Ahmed Abdi was shot and killed near Villa Somalia in Mogadishu last Wednesday while in Mogadishu to help PM Mohamed establish his new government. Investigations are underway to determine who was behind the attack.
- TFG troops in Mogadishu intercepted weapons being transported into the city for al Shabaab. Captain Ahmed Yare of the TFG said, “Our soldiers at the ex-control checkpoint have on Saturday intercepted weapons such as RPG heads, ammunitions of light and heavy machine guns and landmines these weapons were loaded in a car.”
- Five Somali men were convicted of federal piracy charges by a Virginia court on Wednesday in the first U.S. piracy trial since the Civil War. The five men attacked the USS Nichols on April 1, 2010 after mistaking it for a merchant ship. All five men face life sentences in prison.
- Somali pirates hijacked a Malaysian ship with 23 people onboard this weekend.
- Al Shabaab has changed its leadership in Beled Hawo in Gedo region. Sheikh Biashar Ali said, “We have taken this reshuffling step because we have seen that there were some weaknesses in the previous administration and that has even led the weak forces of the so called Somali government troops and their ally Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a to recently take over the control of the district and is not something bearable and this is merely something to assure the security of the district and not to fall in the hands of ours enemies once again.”