Gulf of Aden
Yemen: Massive anti-government demonstration in Sana’a; Saleh gives speech to supporters in Sana’a; negotiations underway for transition; tribes take over parts of Shabwah governorate; AQAP bomb maker designated a terrorist by U.S.; Turkey to investigate arms smuggling attempt
Horn of Africa: Uganda and Burundi vow to oust al Shabaab from Somalia; al Shabaab closes off Elwaq in Gedo region; grenade attack on al Shabaab base kills three militants; fighting occurs in Mogadishu between al Shabaab and TFG troops; Kenya closes refugee camp
Yemen Security Brief
- Hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators have gathered in the capital near Sana’a University, the biggest rally yet. The Yemeni army set up checkpoints near the demonstrators to check for weapons. The opposition’s original plan to march on the presidential palace has been delayed until April 1.
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke to supporters at a Sana’a rally saying, “I will transfer the power to safe hands, and not to malicious forces who conspire against the homeland.” He added, “We are against firing a single bullet and when we give concessions this is to ensure there is no bloodshed….We will remain steadfast and challenge them with all power we have.” Saleh said he was ready to step down, but does not want to hand it over to “sick, hateful, corrupt collaborator hands.” News reports indicated that security forces had established checkpoints throughout the capital to prevent anti-government demonstrators from entering the city.
- Saleh and General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar have been in meetings, according to Ahmed al Sufi, Saleh’s media secretary. He said, “In the past 48 hours, there were meetings between the president and (General) Ali Mohsen…Ali Mohsen clarified why he did what he did, and requested assurances that nothing would happen against him.” General Ahmar has said, “I have no more ambition left except to spend the remainder of my life in tranquility, peace and relaxation far from the problems of politics and the demands of the job.” Sources report that the negotiations have stalled over Saleh’s insistence that he and his family be given immunity from prosecution and that the transitional government include some of his allies. The current vice president, Abdu Rabu Hadi, and the leader of Yemen’s Socialist Party, Yassin Saeed Noman, have both been considered for roles in a transitional civilian authority.
- Anti-government tribes have taken over 17 military compounds in Shabwah governorate, all of which had been under the command of Yahya Saleh, the president’s nephew. The tribes control four of the governorate’s districts: Habban, Nisab, Saeed, and Mayfaa. Two major oil facilities are in Habban and Saeed districts.
- The U.S. Department of State listed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operative and bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan Tali al Asiri under Executive Order 13224. Asiri is the primary bomb maker for AQAP and was affiliated with al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia before joining the group. He is credited with designing the bomb used in the August 2009 assassination attempt of Saudi Prince Muhammed bin Nayif.
- The Turkish foreign ministry announced the opening of an investigation into an attempt to smuggle 16,000 small arms from Turkey to Yemen. The statement read, “This attempt to transfer weapons is not based on any permit delivered by our official authorities.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- AMISOM troop-contributing countries Uganda and Burundi have pledged to oust al Shabaab from Somalia. Generals Around Nyakairima and Godefroid Niyonbare made the announcement in a speech on March 23 in Mogadishu.
- Al Shabaab militants prevented trucks carrying food from entering Elwaq in the southern Gedo region. Militants in Bay and Bakool regions ordered the drivers not to enter Elwaq.
- Eyewitnesses report that three al Shabaab militants and at least four civilians were killed March 24 when a hand grenade was thrown at an al Shabaab military base outside of Mogadishu. Ten other militants, including an official, Sheikh Mohamed Abu Yahya, were injured in the attack.
- Fighting broke out in Mogadishu in Hodan and Hawl Wadag districts when Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops began military maneuvers near al Shabaab military trenches.
- The Kenyan government closed a refugee camp in Mandera, near the border with Somalia and Ethiopia, ordering about 10,000 Somalis to return home. Most had fled the recent violence in Beled Hawo.