Update and Assessment: March 9, 2016
By The Editors
March 9, 2016
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) is maintaining a cell near Sabratha, Libya to conduct attacks in Tunisia. Militants, likely from this cell, crossed the Tunisian-Libyan border and attacked security targets in Ben Guerdane, Tunisia on March 7, signaling the first significant ground assault by ISIS in Tunisia if the militants’ affiliation is confirmed. This cell, which is linked to last year’s attacks in Bardo and Sousse, will continue to generate attacks on both civilian and security targets in Tunisia.
- Al Qaeda’s Somalia-based affiliate, al Shabaab, continues to test explosive devices targeting commercial planes. Militants attempted to move multiple explosive devices onto a plane leaving Beledweyne Airport in Hiraan region on March 7, but one of the devices exploded prematurely and the others were found and cleared by security forces. The first attempt by al Shabaab occurred on February 3, when an al Shabaab suicide bomber detonated an explosive device on a Daallo Airlines flight leaving Mogadishu. Separately, a Pentagon official confirmed that U.S. airstrikes targeted al Shabaab fighters at a camp who “posed an imminent threat” to U.S. and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel in Somalia.
- The start of direct talks between al Houthi representatives and Saudi officials is a significant inflection for the ongoing negotiations to end Yemen’s current crisis. The ground fight is effectively stalemated with trends developing in support of the Saudi-led coalition. Recent outreach by General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, a former ally of Ali Abdullah Saleh now serving as the deputy commander of Yemen’s Armed Forces, among northern tribes may have had success, which would influence the al Houthis’ negotiating positions. It is unlikely, however, that any solution from these talks will restore stability and security to Yemen because none of the primary negotiators control key factions operating on the ground.