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: Brennan says AQAP still grave threat; governor of Ma’rib escapes assassination attempt; al Qaeda militants abduct medical doctor; legal team sent to meet President Saleh

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab closes feeding centers in the south; al Shabaab battles each other in Middle Shabelle; Ahlu Sunna accuses al Shabaab of operating illegal checkpoints; at least one dead as families rush food aid in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

  • U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John O. Brennan, said that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) still poses a grave threat to the U.S. despite successes in going after al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. He adds that the unstable political situation in Yemen has limited the Yemeni government’s “ability to confront” AQAP. At the same time he insists that joint U.S.-Yemeni counterterrorism efforts are “not losing ground,” but that President Ali Abdullah Saleh should move forward in transferring power.[1]
  • Sheikh Naji Ali al Zaidi escaped an assassination attempt.  A security source reported that militants linked to al Islah (Reform) party set up two ambushes for the doctor. One occurred on his way to visit Bidbidah district, wounding his brother after militants fired at his vehicle; the other occurred on his way back from visiting the district, wounding four others and killing one of his guards. The governor survived an assassination attempt last May when a protester stabbed him multiple times in Ma’rib city.[2]
  • A Yemeni security source reports that al Qaeda militants, in cooperation with Islah-affiliated militants abducted medical doctor Colonel Ali al Aghrabi and his guards at gunpoint near al Mil checkpoint. The doctor was on his way from Sana’a to Ma’rib. The militants demanded the release of an al Qaeda operative who was detained by security officials last month in Sana’a.[3]
  • Yemen’s ruling party sent a legal team to Riyadh to meet with President Saleh in order to sign the transition deal. Opposition forces have already signed the deal and say they plan to continue protesting until Saleh signs the deal. [4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab has closed several feeding centers in the Bulo Marer and Kuntuwarey regions of Lower Shabelle.  The closure follows visits from al Shabaab leaders.  The leaders reportedly demanded “a huge amount of money” from the African Muslim Agency who ran the centers as a registration fee.[5]
  • Two al Shabaab militia groups fought each other at the former UNICEF center in Jowhar in Middle Shabelle region.  At least two militants received gunshot wounds although local reports suggest the casualty count is much higher.  Locals believe the battle was sparked by financial concerns.[6]
  • Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a accused al Shabaab of operating illegal checkpoints along roads in the Gedo region to take money from people passing through them.  Ahlu Sunna spokesman Sheikh Mohamed Hussein al Qadi says that most of the checkpoints are in Yurgud, Burdhubo, and other villages.[7]
  • Families who had stood in line for hours at a food distribution point in Mogadishu rushed the soldiers guarding the food.  The soldiers beat them back and then opened fire, leaving at least one but possibly as many as six dead as the food was carried off by the families.[8]

[1] Laura Rozen, “White House counterterrorism adviser: Al Qaeda holding ground in Yemen,” The Envoy, September 8, 2011. Available:
Karen DeYoung, “Brennan: Al-Qaeda offshoot in Yemen gaining strength as a powerful domestic insurgency,” Washington Post, September 8, 2011. Available:
[2]  “Governor of Marib Escapes Assassination in North Yemen,” Yemen Observer, September 8, 2011. Available:
[3] “Al-Qaeda Militants Abduct Medical Doctor in North Yemen,” Yemen Observer, September 8, 2011. Available:
[4] “Yemen’s Ruling Party to Push on With Transition Plan,” Reuters, September 8, 2011. Available:
[5] “Al-Shabaab shuts down feeding centers in Lower Shabelle,” Radio Bar-Kulan, September 8, 2011. Available:
[6] “Al-Shabaab militias clash themselves in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle,” Radio Bar-Kulan, September 9, 2011. Available:
[7]  “Ahlu Sunna charges Al shabaab with taking illegal money form [sic] people,” Shabelle Media Network, September 9, 2011. Available:
[8] “Somalia: Six Killed in Rush for Food,” New York Times, September 8, 2011. Available:
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