Gulf of Aden
Yemen: Yemen establishes four counterterrorism units; AQAP releases 14th issue of Arabic-language magazine; Yemeni soldier killed in Zinjibar; al Qaeda militant killed at Saudi checkpoint; opposition leader questioned for separatist ties; Yemen sets parliamentary elections date
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab and Hizb al Islam release official announcement on merger; al Shabaab commander and spokesman speak on merger; TFG displays body of al Shabaab militant killed in clash; Museveni commends AMISOM; TFG Ministry of Information releases statement on Saracan International deal; fighting near Beledweyne kills at least ten people; al Shabaab militants arrest qat traders; Fars News reports on Somali president’s visit to Tehran
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemen’s Interior Ministry announced that Yemen is establishing anti-terrorism units in its governorates. This will be the first time that U.S.-funded and trained counterterrorism units will operate out of the governorates. The units will be based out of Shabwah, Ma’rib, Abyan, and Hadramawt governorates. The announcement came one day after Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan spoke with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and on the anniversary of the Christmas day attack.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the 14th issue of its Arabic-language magazine, Sada al Malahem (Echo of the Epics) on December 24. This is the June/July 2010 issue, which has been delayed. It includes articles by AQAP leader Nasser al Wahayshi and deputy leader Said al Shihri.
- The driver of a motor-bike taxi in Zinjibar shot and killed his passenger, a Yemeni soldier. An official has said that this is believed to be another al Qaeda attack.
- A Saudi security source reportedly said that a suspected al Qaeda militant killed at a checkpoint south of Riyadh at Wadi al Dawasir on December 24 had connections to the 113-member terrorist network broken up last March. The man is said to have gone by the name “al Baghdadi” and had recruited a 17-year-old boy to join al Qaeda.
- Yemen’s prosecutor general interrogated a leader of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Mohammed Ghaleb Ahmed, over his alleged support for the southern secessionists. Taher Tammah, a leader of a militant faction of the Southern Movement who may be in custody, alleged that the YSP had offered $50,000 to “sabotage” the late-November regional soccer tournament, the Gulf Cup.
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh set April 27, 2011 as the day that Yemen will hold its postponed parliamentary elections and announced that international monitors will be present. Saleh said, “We accept foreign observers, and also reiterate our call to our brothers in the parties of the ‘Common Front’ to take part in the poll and not to quibble over trivia.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab and Hizb al Islam announced their merger by releasing a joint statement on jihadist forums on December 25, 2010. This statement contained elements from the formal unification agreement. The statement says that the groups are aware of the necessity of unity within the ummah, the Muslim community, and have decided to unify under the name “Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen.” The group’s stated goals are as follows: to establish an Islamic Caliphate; to wage jihad to accomplish tawhid and eradicate polytheism; to confront the “global Zionist-Christian Crusade; to apply shari’a law; to apply the ideology of alliance and enmity (al wala wa al bara); to restore Islamic sanctities; to support the oppressed and free Muslim prisoners; to unify the ummah under tawhid; and to create a cohesive Muslim society guided by a correct ideology. The statement calls upon the ummah to support the group and invites “the people of knowledge and those who possess experience in all fields” to partake in the group’s victory.
- Al Shabaab commander Fuad Mohamed Qalaf, also known as Shongole, said during a broadcast speech Monday, “We tell the American President Barack Obama to embrace Islam before we come to his country.” The message had been recorded in Afgoi during a meeting between Shongole and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, formerly the leader of Hizb al Islam. Al Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage, also known as Ali Dhere, held a press conference in Mogadishu on Friday. There, he said, “We call on our brothers [al Qaeda] to come to Somalia and to help us expand the East Africa jihad…. The TFG and AMISOM have failed to expel our fighters from Mogadishu and our unity is to prevent that.”
- Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) displayed the body of an al Shabaab militant who was killed during a fight with TFG and AMISOM forces in Bondhere district in Mogadishu. At least four people died and seven others were injured in the clash. Witnesses report that ten people were killed in clashes in Mogadishu and that over 15 people were taken to the local hospitals.
- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni commended AMISOM forces for their work in Somalia. Separately, Museveni repeated that Uganda would not withdraw due to pressure from internal opposition and al Shabaab.
- The Somali Ministry of Information released a statement regarding the government’s contractual relationship with Saracan International, a Ugandan security firm. The statement clarifies that the Somali cabinet discussed the issue on December 21 and 23 and that the agreement was reviewed because it predated the current government. Saracen is to train security personnel and conduct humanitarian work in Mogadishu and is being paid by some Muslim countries. Information Minister Abdikarin Hasan Jama said, “The agreement the government engaged with Saracen International covers training security guards… and some humanitarian tasks including renovating places like hospitals and other buildings.”
- Al Shabaab and government forces clashed in El-Gal village, outside of Beledweyne in the Hiraan region. Al Shabaab military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Mus’ab said, “Somali forces retreated to Kalabeyrka junction, where many government troops are based.” Mus’ab also accused the government of receiving support from Ethiopia. Witnesses report that at least ten people were killed in the clash. A Somali army commander, Ahmed Osman Inji, said that government forces had killed six al Shabaab militants and burned one truck.
- Al Shabaab militants arrested at least ten qat traders in Jowhar in Middle Shabelle region, according an official. A local al Shabaab official reports that the traders broke orders from al Shabaab.
- Fars News reports that Iran’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with Transitional Federal Government President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in Tehran Monday to discuss Iranian support for the government. Salehi said, “Somalia is an important country to us, and it can prove an influential country in the region if it experiences tranquility. The Islamic Republic of Iran is at the service of the people and government of Somalia….” Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said of the situation in Somalia, “International powers do not want Islamic countries to have an independent life, and the, thus, try to spark political, economic and security crises through plots, conspiracies and interference…. Terrorism and foreign interference are the two sides of the same coin.”