Gulf of Aden
Yemen: White House calls for dialogue and near-term change; Pentagon spokesman discusses U.S. military aid to Yemen; EU’s foreign policy chief calls for transition now; the Netherlands suspends aid to Yemeni government; Taiz demonstrations continue; foreign minister says AQAP captured the town of Jaar in Abyan; General Ahmar issues statement claiming assassination attempt; JMP open to negotiations for speedy transition
Horn of Africa: Somali forces clear seven towns on the Somali-Kenyan border; TFG seeks aid for drought-hit population; UN says UNPOS will not relocate to Mogadishu; Ugandan police issue warning of an imminent al Shabaab attack
Yemen Security Brief
- The White House released a press statement concerning the violence in Yemen: “The United States strongly condemns the use of violence by Yemeni government forces against demonstrators in Sanaa, Taiz, and Hodeida in the past several days…. President Saleh needs to resolve the political impasse with the opposition so that meaningful political change can take place in the near term in an orderly and peaceful manner. We call upon all sides to engage in a constructive political dialogue and to chart a course that puts Yemen’s unity, progress and future prosperity ahead of individual agendas.”
- Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell discussed the situation in Yemen at a press briefing. Morrell said in a response to a question on U.S. military aid, “Obviously, we are monitoring the situation closely. It's fluid. And we are making determinations and evaluations based upon how it's developing.” He noted, “I don't think there has been any diminution in the commitment of the Yemeni leadership to confront that threat [from al Qaeda]. And so we will continue to evaluate what makes the most sense for us in terms of dealing with this threat, in terms of support for the Yemeni government.” Later, Morrell added, “Obviously, the situation [in Yemen] right now is a -- is a difficult one. The longer is festers, the more difficult it becomes. That is why this government has been urging a negotiated transition as quickly as possible. And hopefully, as that takes place, we will be able to better collectively go after this threat that exists in Yemen.”
- Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement: “Contrary to earlier commitments, freedom of expression and security of peaceful demonstrators is not being guaranteed…. I am also very concerned about the deterioration of the security and economic situation. I reiterate my call for an orderly political transition to begin without delay in order to resolve the current crisis and pave the way to reforms. This is the message I personally conveyed to the President last week. Transition must begin now."
- The Netherlands suspended aid to Yemeni government institutions in response to the government’s use of violence against demonstrators. The suspension will not impact emergency aid to civil society organizations. €14.7 million of the €23.7 million budgeted for 2011 will be suspended.
- Violence continued for the fourth day in Taiz. Witnesses report that police shot dead at least one protestor and injured over thirty others as tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on the local governorate headquarters.
- In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi confirmed that the town of Jaar in Abyan governorate had been captured by AQAP. Qirbi said, “There has been a government effort to dislodge them but I have no information on whether it was successful...Obviously the extremists are taking advantage of the political unrest here. Al-Qaeda is trying to strengthen its position.”
- General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar’s office released a statement claiming that the April 5 clash between his forces and loyalist tribesman was an assassination attempt by the Yemeni government. “The issue appeared to be a trick to assassinate Ali Mohsen, intermediaries, and a group of tribal sheikhs,” the statement said.
- The JMP responded guardedly to overtures from President Saleh and General Mohsen to participate in GCC-mediated talks in Saudi Arabia. JMP spokesperson Mohammed al Sabri responded, saying, “We welcome the (GCC) position on respecting the Yemeni people’s choices and we will also welcome any efforts made for the sake of President Saleh’s speedy departure.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Somali forces under the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) drove al Shabaab out of seven refugee towns that line the Somali-Kenyan border. These towns include Dolow, Beled Hawo, Luq, Elwaq, Dhobley, Dif, and Taabdo. Mohamed Ali Nur, the TFG’s ambassador to Kenya, explained, “If these towns are liberated and if we go on to liberate towns we believe that the people, the refugees who are in these camps, will go back to their houses.”
- Mohamed Ali Nur, the TFG’s ambassador to Kenya, requested international aid for Somalia’s drought-hit population. Nur said that Somalia’s southern and central regions experienced poor rainfall for several seasons in a row. Without aid, Nur said, Somalia faced “a staggering death toll” comparable to the famine of the early 1990s. Al Shabaab has prevented international aid agencies from operating in regions under its control in southern and central Somalia.
- The UN’s Special Representative to Somalia Augustine Mahiga said that the UN would not move personnel to Mogadishu, citing security concerns and poor facilities in Mogadishu as reasons for the UN to remain in Kenya. Mahiga said that the UN will send fact-finding missions to Mogadishu to observe the capital's new security conditions following the government’s recent pacification efforts in different areas of the city.
- Inspector General Kale Kayihura of the Ugandan police issued an alert, warning of an imminent al Shabaab attack. Kayihura said, “We have received yet another credible information that Al-Shebab is planning an attack on Uganda and we are asking our people to be vigilant at all times to avert this...We are appealing to the public to remain vigilant. Transporters, hotel owners, shopping centres, schools, places of worship and night clubs have been put on notice because they are targets of these criminals.”