Gulf of Aden Security Review - January 9, 2017
Yemen: Hadi government forces launch Operation Golden Spear to seize territory surrounding the Bab al Mandab Strait; AQAP militants attack al Hizam forces in Abyan governorate; reported U.S. airstrike kills AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims attack targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces near Qifa, northwestern al Bayda governorate; Russian-printed currency arrives in Aden
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants retake stronghold from AMISOM forces outside Kismayo; reported U.S. airstrikes kill five people outside Kismayo; Somali Special Forces arrest senior al Shabaab commander in Wanlaweyn, Lower Shabelle region; militants detonate two IEDs in Mogadishu restaurant; suspected al Shabaab IED kills three people near Mahaday, Middle Shabelle region
Yemen Security Brief
- Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government announced the beginning of “Operation Golden Spear” on January 7. The operation is intended to drive al Houthi-Saleh forces from the coastal regions of Taiz and Lahij governorates near the Bab al Mandab Strait. Hadi government forces claimed to seize Dhubab district in southwestern Taiz Governorate on January 8. Hadi government forces reportedly overran al Houthi-Saleh positions in Camp Omari in northeastern Dhubab district with Saudi-led coalition air support. Al Houthi-Saleh forces launched two ballistic missiles toward Hadi government positions near the Bab al Mandab Strait on January 8 in response. The al Houthi-Saleh-appointed governor of Taiz, Abd al Jindi, denied al Houthi-Saleh forces lost any territory during the clashes on January 9. An al Houthi news source also released footage of al Houthi-Saleh forces destroying Hadi government vehicles near the Bab al Mandab Strait. Al Houthi-Saleh forces killed Hadi government Third Brigade commander, Brigadier General Omar Said Subaihi, during clashes on January 7. Al Houthi-Saleh forces are holding his body in an attempt to secure a prisoner exchange. Hadi government forces intend to expand Operation Golden Spear to include the seizure of Mokha city.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants claimed multiple attacks against Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in Abyan governorate. AQAP militants destroyed a military barracks in al Maraqisha area, southern Abyan governorate on January 7. AQAP claimed to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting al Hizam security forces in Zinjibar, Abyan governorate on January 8. Local news sources confirmed the attack but reported no casualties. AQAP also claimed to detonate an IED targeting al Hizam forces in the Shaqra area, southern Abyan governorate on January 9. Al Hizam forces withdrew from checkpoints in northern Abyan on January 6, citing insufficient resources due to a high rate of AQAP attacks.
- A reported U.S. airstrike targeted AQAP militants in Maswara district, northeastern al Bayda governorate on January 8. Local news sources claimed that the airstrike killed a high-ranking AQAP member. The last reported U.S. airstrike targeting AQAP in al Bayda occurred on December 29. U.S. Central Command confirmed on December 23 that it conducted nine airstrikes targeting AQAP militants in Yemen between late September and mid-December 2016.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces near Qifa, northwestern al Bayda governorate on January 7. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda shared images of its forces firing artillery and mortar rounds at al Houthi-Saleh forces along with the claim. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda last claimed an attack near Qifa on December 27.
- Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi announced that 200 billion Russian-printed Yemeni riyals arrived in Aden on January 6 and will be used to pay government salaries. Two hundred billion additional Russian-printed riyals are forthcoming. Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghir also announced that the Hadi government will pay all government salaries and said that the government liquidity crisis is ending. Yemen’s Civil Service Ministry will pay government salaries on January 9 after allotting new budgets to each province and government institution. The Ministry will base budgets on employment records from December 2014, before the al Houthi-Saleh faction had completed its takeover of Sana’a.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants recaptured Yontoy and Bulo-Gadud towns on January 7 after Jubbaland security forces and Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops retreated from the area. Jubbaland and AMISOM forces had launched a joint military offensive against the two al Shabaab strongholds in the Singalar area near Kismayo, Lower Jubba region on January 6. The joint Jubbaland-Ethiopian forces initially took control of Yontoy and Bulo-Gadud after heavy engagement with al Shabaab militants. Jubbaland-Ethiopian forces then withdrew from Yontoy and Bulo-Gadud on January 7, allowing al Shabaab militants to re-enter the towns without resistance.
- Reported U.S. airstrikes killed five people in al Shabaab-controlled territory near Kismayo in Lower Jubba region on January 8. Somali military officials claim that U.S. warplanes fired at least 20 missiles at several al Shabaab camps in Singalar and Tuulo Kuusow, located approximately 30 kilometers north of Kismayo.
- AMISOM and Somali Special Forces arrested a senior al Shabaab commander during a military operation in Wanlaweyn, Lower Shabelle region on January 7. Al Shabaab captured Wanlaweyn town in July 2015. AMISOM and Somali troops are currently contesting the area.
- Likely al Shabaab militants detonated twin improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at a restaurant frequented by Somali soldiers in the Hodan district of Mogadishu on January 7. The assailants tossed two explosives into the restaurant, killing four people and injuring 17 others, including several soldiers. No group has claimed responsibility at this time. Somali security forces arrested at least 20 people in connection with the blast.
- Likely al Shabaab militants detonated an IED that killed three people near Mahaday town in Middle Shabelle region on January 6. Al Shabaab conducted a similar attack against an AMISOM convoy in the same area on January 5.