Gulf of Aden Security Review – June 12, 2012

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Jaar-sm (Photo credit: Julian Stallabrass)

Yemen: Yemen military recaptures Jaar and Zinjibar; interview with AQAP military spokesman features details on May 21 suicide attack, battle for Abyan; findings from May 21 suicide attack in Sana’a to be released next week

Horn of Africa: TFG, Kenyan troops clash with al Shabaab near Qoqani; al Shabaab recaptures Mahas from Ahlu Sunna and Ethiopian forces; al Shabaab arrests four people in Elbur; Somali peacemaker in Beledweyne assassinated; Kenya asks for financial assistance from U.S. ahead of assault on al Shabaab’s stronghold in Kismayo; newly trained TFG soldiers arrive to Beledweyne

Yemen Security Brief

  • Yemen’s commander of the southern military zone General Salem Qatan reported that the former Ansar al Sharia strongholds of Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan governorate have been “completely cleansed.” The Yemeni Defense Ministry said that the Yemeni military, backed by armed tribesmen, entered Zinjibar and Jaar where they clashed with Ansar al Sharia militants. At least 20 militants, four soldiers, and two civilians were killed in the attack. Twenty more Yemeni soldiers were also injured. The Defense Ministry added that between 200 and 300 Ansar al Sharia militants, including foreign fighters, fled from Jaar, Zinjibar, and Shaqra. Residents in Jaar reported that militants left behind flyers stating that Ansar al Sharia did not want to “cause any harm to Jaar and its inhabitants.” Additionally, the Yemeni Navy reportedly sunk 10 boats carrying Ansar al Sharia militants.[1]
  • In an interview with al Quds al Arabi released on June 12, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) military commander Qasim al Raymi provided details on Sana’a’s May 21 suicide attack. When asked why AQAP targeted Yemeni troops when it claims it is at war with the U.S., Raymi explained that the attack was in retaliation for the Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s campaign against militants in Abyan and demonstrates AQAP’s ability to “bring the attack to them.” He added that the battle for Abyan will continue for years.[2]
  • Yemeni Interior Minister Abdul Qadir Qahtan announced on June 11 that the findings from the investigation of the May 21 Sana’a suicide bombing will be released next week. The attack claimed by AQAP killed over 100 Yemeni soldiers.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Local residents reported that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers, backed by Kenyan troops, clashed with al Shabaab militants near Qoqani in Lower Jubba region. Reports on casualties and injuries have yet to surface.[4]
  • Al Shabaab militants recaptured the town of Mahas in Hiraan region on June 11, reported locals. TFG and Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces withdrew before al Shabaab fighters arrived. Ahlu Sunna official Saney Mohamud Farah stated that the town fell to the militants due to the increased pressure felt from the growing presence of al Shabaab militants on the outskirts of Mahas.[5]

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REVIEW — AQAP and Suspected AQAP Attacks in Yemen Tracker 2010 and 2011

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Shows provinces where Yemeni launched a crackd...
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December 15, 2011

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has conducted numerous attacks throughout Yemen, with the highest concentration of attacks occurring in the southern governorates. AQAP’s campaign of violence reached the level of an active insurgency in June 2010. Most of AQAP’s targets in Yemen appear to be government targets, with a particular focus on the state’s intelligence and security apparatuses.

Identifying the group responsible for attacks in Yemen – especially in southern Yemen – can be an extremely difficult task, as the government in Yemen is quick to attribute most attacks to AQAP, even without corroborating evidence. The reality, however, is that several groups exist with the capacity to execute small scale attacks in the country. Most notably in southern Yemen, there is a secessionist movement – known as the Southern Movement – that is generally peaceful, but does have violent elements associated with it. The Yemeni government has made attempts to conflate the Southern Movement with AQAP, but, at this point there appears to be little, if any, operational cooperation between the two entities, despite their shared enemy and common geographic location.

The Critical Threats Project has produced this tracker to provide information on al Qaeda’s continued insurgency in Yemen. The tracker includes both attacks for which AQAP has taken credit and incidents attributed to AQAP by the government.

This tracker will be updated with new developments. The Critical Threats Project is tracking al Qaeda’s advances in south Yemen during the recent unrest in its Yemen situation reports.

DECEMBER 9, 2011: A tribal source reported that unidentified gunmen attacked an oil pipeline using rocket-propelled grenades in Aslan region in Shabwah governorate on December 9. The pipeline connects the oil pipelines in Ma’rib governorate to oil export facilities on the Red Sea. AQAP is suspected to be responsible for the attack, according to a local government official.[1]

NOVEMBER 30, 2011: A security official reported that gunmen opened fire on a police vehicle in Khormaksar district in Aden. Two soldiers were killed in the reported assassination attempt of a police commander. Government officials reported that al Qaeda is suspected to be responsible for the attack.[2]

NOVEMBER 21, 2011: An improvised explosive device (IED) blast killed two tribesmen and wounded five others in Mudia in Abyan governorate on November 21. Al Qaeda-linked militants are reportedly responsible for the attack. The attack was reportedly in response to the killing of six al Qaeda-linked militants by security forces.[3] Read the rest of this entry »

Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 110

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November 30, 2011

Local armed opposition groups in Yemen, including the al Houthi rebels in the north and al Qaeda militants in the south, continue to contest the power of the central Yemeni state. Further, violence against protesters is ongoing in Taiz.

Al Houthi rebels and Salafist fighters continue to clash in Damaj in Sa’ada governorate. A Salafist spokesman, Abu Ismail, reported that al Houthis attacked early in the morning. At least 26 people were injured in the latest round of fighting. President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son and commander of the Republican Guard forces, Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, issued directives to end the armed conflict in Sa’ada. Read the rest of this entry »

Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 104

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November 13, 2011

Al Qaeda-linked militants continue to control territory in Abyan governorate. The al Houthi rebels in the north may also be seeking to expand their territorial control.

Fighting between al Qaeda-linked militants and the Yemeni army is ongoing in Abyan governorate. Five al Qaeda-linked militants were killed and three others injured by Yemeni army shelling in al Kod near Zinjibar. One of the militants was Saudi Nayef al Qahtani, allegedly a senior member of Ansar al Sharia (Supporters of Islamic Law). At least three other militants, two of whom were Somali, were killed in clashes with Yemeni army troops and allied tribesmen in al Tariyya village, northeast of Zinjibar.

Clashes continue between Yemeni troops and opposition tribesmen north of Sana’a. Yemeni troops shelled positions held by opposition tribesmen in Arhab district, killing two tribesmen. Tribal sources reported that the shelling injured a number of civilians. Read the rest of this entry »

Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 103

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November 12, 2011

A violent crackdown on protesters in Taiz, even as the Yemeni regime resumes negotiations for a transfer of power, may drive Yemen further toward broader armed conflict. Yemen’s prolonged unrest may also help unify the factionalized Southern Movement, which calls for secession from the north.

Violence in Taiz flared over the past two days. Shelling in Taiz killed fifteen people and injured dozens more. The shelling has focused on al Rawda and Zeid al Mushky neighborhoods in Taiz. Security forces also began operations in Freedom Square. Witnesses reported that fighting, sparked Thursday by the death of a loyalist soldier, occurred in six different areas in the city. Opposition tribesmen claimed to have injured four loyalist soldiers during the fighting; Yemen’s defense ministry reported that two soldiers were killed. Loyalist troops are positioned inside al Thawra (Revolution) Hospital and have set up at least 22 checkpoints along the main roads in Taiz. Reports also indicate that tanks and armored vehicles re-entered the city after leaving Wednesday.

Al Qaeda-linked militants publicly lashed five youths in Jaar in Abyan governorate. The youths, who each received 80 lashes, had been accused of taking drugs. Six al Qaeda-linked militants died in clashes between the militants and Yemeni army troops in Zinjibar, south of Jaar, according to a government official. Read the rest of this entry »