Update and Assessment: December 16, 2015

December 16, 2015

Key Takeaways:

  1. Kenyan intelligence reports that al Shabaab's Lower Jubba regional commander, Mohamed Mohamud Kuno “Dulyadeyn,” defected to the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in late November, bringing with him approximately 1,200 militants. If true, Dulyadeyn’s defection is a significant inflection for al Qaeda-ISIS competition in East Africa, as well as a major internal schism for al Shabaab. He is an ethnic Kenyan with connections to radical pro-ISIS figures in that country, so his defection would likely lead to an uptick in pro-ISIS militant activity in Kenya.
  2. The Saudi-led coalition initiated a seven-day ceasefire in support of UN-led peace talks that aim to end hostilities in Yemen. The ceasefire remains tenuous following an al Houthi-Saleh Tochka (SS-21) rocket attack on a coalition base that killed the commander of Saudi Special Forces in Yemen. Pro-coalition media have accused al Houthi forces of violating the truce in several locations, and the coalition may choose to respond to alleged violations by resuming military operations in Yemen.
  3. Iranian officials condemned the clashes between the Nigerian army and Shia Muslims in northern Nigeria. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Nigerian chargé d'affaires on December 14 after soldiers besieged the house of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), a pro-Iranian opposition group. The Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Commission also released a statement claiming that “Iran considers it its duty to defend the people of Nigeria and that country’s Muslim scholars, particularly Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky.” Tehran will likely use these clashes as an opportunity to champion its role as the defender of the global Shia population.