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: AQAP claims responsibility for UPS plane crash in Dubai and parcel bombs; Anwar al Awlaki releases 23-minute video calling for the death of Americans; judges orders Awlaki brought in “dead or alive”; Saudi intelligence tip received a few weeks ago allowed officials to stop parcel bombs; Hisham Mohammed Assem accused of corresponding with Awlaki before murdering French engineer; U.S. seeking to increase intelligence cooperation with Yemen; AQAP reports attacks in Mudia, denies connection with Aden sports club bombing; masked gunmen blow up military vehicle in Abyan governorate; human rights group asks Saleh government to take action against pirates after Yemeni hostage commits suicide; Yemenis claim international restrictions on Yemen following parcel bombs are unjust; Yemen’s clerics ask terrorists to turn themselves in; Yemeni PM claims AQAP is a western-made group
Horn of Africa: Somali Minister of Information calls on international community to send 20,000 additional troops to Somalia; unknown gunmen kill community worker in Kenya; Ahlu Sunna clerics accuse al Shabaab in Beledweyne of committing crimes against the residents; fighting between al Shabaab and TFG troops in Mogadishu leaves six dead, seven wounded; civilian killed by AMISOM troops in Mogadishu; Somali pirates take two yacht passengers hostage, South African skipper escapes; Somali pirates release South Korean tanker for $9.5 million ransom; five Somali pirates to face first piracy trial in the U.S. in over 100 years
Yemen Security Brief
- In a statement posted on jihadist forums on November 5, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the UPS plane that crashed in Dubai in September and for the recently foiled parcel bombs discovered in Dubai and London. In the statement, the group wondered why the U.S. did not attribute to them responsibility for the September plane crash, positing that it might have been a way for Obama to retain support leading up to the midterm elections. The statement warned President Obama, “We struck three blows to your aircraft within one year. Allah willing, we will continue to strike blows against American interests and the interest of America’s allies.”
- U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki released a 23-minute video on jihadist forums on Monday calling all Arab and Yemeni leaders corrupt and saying that no permission is needed to kill Americans, as they are from the “party of devils.” In the video, Awlaki says, “Kings, emirs, and presidents are not now qualified to lead the nation, or even a flock of sheep… If the leaders are corrupt, the scholars have the responsibility to lead the nation.”
- After Anwar al Awlaki failed to show up in court in Sana’a for his trial on Saturday, the presiding judge ordered Yemeni police to find and capture him “dead or alive.”
- Western officials claim that it was a Saudi intelligence tip received a few weeks ago that allowed them to stop the parcel bombs from reaching their Chicago destination. CIA spokesman George Little said, “Over the past several months, we received intelligence which was shared across our government from our foreign partners about threats from AQAP and other terrorist groups… Last week, we received specific intelligence that allowed the United States and our allies to disrupt the cargo plot.”
- During the trial of Hisham Mohammed Assem, who is accused of killing a French engineer in Yemen on October 6, the prosecution claimed that Assem was convinced to kill the foreigner after months of e-mail correspondence with Anwar al Awlaki. The court charged Assem, Anwar al Awlaki, and Osman al Awlaki with “forming an armed gang to commit criminal acts targeting foreign and security officers.”
- In response to the growing capabilities of AQAP, the U.S. is seeking to increase cooperation with Yemen in order to combat the terrorist group. While security officials deny that this cooperation will take the form of U.S. military intervention, it will most likely include increased intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Yemen, greater U.S. access to detainees suspected of belonging to AQAP, and the continued U.S. training of Yemeni counterterrorism forces. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday that the U.S. could be doing more to help train Yemeni counterterrorism forces.
- AQAP released two communiqués on jihadist forums on Friday concerning October attacks. In the first, they reported clashes between al Qaeda forces and Yemeni troops in Mudia district in Abyan governorate on October 14 and 16. According to the statement, AQAP militants killed several soldiers, destroyed their vehicles, and executed a suicide mission. They also claimed that the Yemeni troops bombed a civilian locale and blamed it on AQAP. In the second statement AQAP denied any connection to the October 11 bombings at a sports club in Aden, saying they would never intentionally harm a Muslim.
- Masked gunmen blew up a military vehicle in Abyan governorate on Saturday morning. The vehicle was carrying water to a military camp in Jaar. Although the identity of the attackers is unknown, sources say the attack “bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.”
- Following the suicide of one of the Yemeni hostages who have been held by Somali pirates since March of this year, the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) has asked President Saleh to take immediate action to free the hostages. The pirates are demanding a $1 million ransom for the hostages’ release, claiming that they will kill the hostages and sell their organs if the ransom is not paid.
- Yemeni officials and public claim that the international restrictions imposed on Yemeni commerce and travel are unjust and are doing more to hurt the Yemeni people than they are the terrorists. Some claim that the restrictions being placed on air travel are seen by the terrorists as a reward, encouraging them to continue with their attacks. Many worry that these restrictions will worsen the economic situation in Yemen, making survival even more difficult for Yemen’s poor, which could further encourage them to join with the terrorist forces.
- Yemen’s Clerical Committee for Reference and Advice has asked all terrorists in Yemen to turn themselves in. The Committee also said that foreign interference in Yemen is weakening the state’s sovereignty, and that the Yemeni government must deal with the situation without foreign assistance.
- During a meeting in Sana’a with Asian and African ambassadors to Yemen, Yemeni PM Ali Muhammed al Mujawar claimed that AQAP is a Western-made group that did not originate in his country. Mujawar said, “Al Qaeda was essentially a Western-made group and was never created by Yemen, it is alleged that those who seek to propagate this view internationally about Yemen.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Somali Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman called on the international community to send 20,000 additional troops to Somalia, saying “We are ready to battle with the rebels… Somalia is going through its most dangerous phase in recent times and we are asking for intensified efforts in order to set up an effective military strategy.” Citing defection as one of the TFG’s greatest problems, Osman said “The financial problem causes many TFG soldiers to join the rebels, we requesting the donors to tackle those crisis.”
- Three Somali gunmen crossed the border into Kenya to kill Ibrahim Mohamed, a community organizer working with Somali refugees who had allegedly been convincing them not to return to Somalia.
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a clerics in Beledweyne have accused al Shabaab officials in the region of committing crimes of intimidation against the population. An Ahlu Sunna cleric said, “The fighters of al Shabaab commit actions against the people of the town mainly the women, children, and elders. We know whole things and what is going on in Beledweyne town and others areas around the region. But we shall not tolerate such actions.”
- Fighting between al Shabaab militants and TFG troops in Hodan district in Mogadishu left at least six people dead and seven others wounded. The fighting began when al Shabaab attacked TFG bases in Hodan.
- A 50-year old civilian was shot and killed by AMISOM forces while leaving the Bakara market in Mogadishu. An eyewitness said, “I think he was suspected because no one uses the streets after the sun sets as the area is a battle zone.”
- Somali pirates attacked a South African yacht, taking two passengers hostage while the skipper managed to escape. When a French warship approached the yacht to come to the aid of the hostages, the pirates fired on it, forcing it to retreat.
- Somali pirates released a South Korean tanker hijacked in April of this year. The pirates collected a $9.5 million ransom for the ship and its hostages, the largest ever ransom paid to pirates in the Gulf of Aden region.
- Five Somali pirates who fired at the USS Nichols, a U.S. Navy ship, in an attempt to plunder it are facing the first U.S. piracy trial in over 100 years. It may prove difficult to prosecute the pirates, since the trained navy sailors prevented them from ever boarding the ship. They will face life sentences if found guilty.