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: Al Qaeda in Pakistan is likely supporting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; Yemeni officials deny that the formal charging of al Awlaki is related to parcel bombs; British and American officials downplay French statement that one bomb was 17 minutes from exploding; Yemeni FM says counterterrorism assistance needed
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab official urges Somalis to join fight, promises revenge on Uganda and Burundi; ex-TFG official appointed new chairperson of Hizb al Islam; TFG condemns shooting of Somali journalist; TFG praises Somaliland and Puntland security operations
Yemen Security Brief
- Officials believe that Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda officials in Pakistan are providing guidance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They believe that al Qaeda militants are executing missions that are in line with bin Laden’s greater objectives. A senior U.S. official said, “Everyone is playing in concert with [bin Laden’s] larger guidance… This is part of their long-term strategy.” While direct control of AQAP rests within the branch, the leadership has often sought approval and guidance from bin Laden.
- Yemeni officials deny that their recent decision to formally charge Anwar al Awlaki is related to last week’s failed package bombings. They explained their delay in charging Awlaki until now by saying that it was “because the Yemeni side only recently received the report about al Awlaki’s official crimes and charges.” PM Ali Mujawar also said in a meeting this week that he rejects the immediate assumption that the package bombs originated in Yemen, “as the recent parcels have passed through more than one international airport, and not only through Sana’a.”
- British and American officials are trying to downplay French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux’s claim yesterday that one of the package bombs discovered was just 17 minutes from exploding. According to U.S. State Department counterterror coordinator Daniel Benjamin, “Our understanding is that the investigators are still looking and the timing of a possible detonation.” The timing is important as investigators are trying to determine whether the bombs were intended to blow up in U.S. air space or whether the intent was just to take down the planes.
- Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said that Yemen needs international assistance to fight terrorism and that the cargo shipments bans will hurt the country. He said, “We feel if one looks at the security situation in Yemen and compare it to other places, Afghanistan or, for that matter, Iraq, Yemen is much more secure than these two places. Yet somehow the media portrays Yemen as completely out of control, which is not the case.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Speaking in a crowded mosque in Heliwa district in Mogadishu, senior al Shabaab official Sheikh Faud Mohamed Khalaf urged Somalis to join in the fight against AMISOM and the TFG and promised to take revenge on Uganda and Burundi for their role in the conflict. Khalaf said, “Our aim is to revenge for our people who are dying for the bombardment of Burundi and Uganda. They kill children, women, and civilians in Mogadishu so our decision is to kill the people in Bujumbura and Kampala.”
- The TFG’s ex-Minister of Defense Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad was appointed chairperson of Hizb al Islam. Sheikh Yusuf declined to comment on the relationship between Hizb al Islam and the government.
- Somali journalist Hassan Mohamed Abikar is in recovery at a local hospital after being shot four times by masked men believed to be members of al Shabaab. Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman condemned the attack, saying “Armed opposition groups, Hizb al Islam and al Shabaab extremists want to silence the Somali media so that their atrocities go unreported, they want to rule by imposing fear and oppression to Somalis.”
- The TFG Ministry of Information released a statement commending the Puntland and Somaliland security operations against militias in the Sanaag Mountains. Puntland security forces, for example, have fought the al Shabaab-linked militia led by Mohamed Said Atom in the Galgala hills.