Critical Threats Today
A regular summary of al Qaeda operations in Yemen and Africa as well as major events in Iran.
These are the major events from April 10 for Iran and for al Qaeda operations in Yemen and Africa. Please see the Iran News Roundup, the Gulf of Aden Security Review, and the weekly Threat Update for more details.
Iranian officials did not articulate any significant strategic change stemming from the U.S. airstrikes on Syria's Shayrat Air Base, but continued to condemn them.
A number of senior officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Armed Forces General Staff Head IRGC Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, promised that the airstrikes would not impact Iran and Russia’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Rouhani, Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, and others also called for an independent fact-finding mission to investigate the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun. Officials have not expressed publicly any major changes to Iran’s strategy or policies as a result of the airstrikes.
Citations & Links
Al Houthi-Saleh forces intensified ballistic missile attacks against ground forces in Taiz and Ma'rib governorates in an effort to prevent the Saudi-led coalition from advancing the front line towards a key Red Sea port in western Yemen and the Yemen's capital of Sana'a.
Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired more ballistic missiles in a 24-hour period than at any other time since the start of the Yemeni civil war in March 2015. Coalition air defenses intercepted the missiles. The al Houthi-Saleh faction’s Iranian-facilitated missile program remains capable of achieving strategic effects, however. Coalition-backed forces are attempting to seize al Hudaydah port from the al Houthi-Saleh faction by May 26, the start of Ramadan. They are currently advancing towards Khawkah district in al Hudaydah governorate, roughly 80 miles from their stated target. (Related Reading: Yemen Crisis Situation Report: March 23, 2017)
Citations & Links
Al Shabaab launched a high-intensity campaign of attacks in Mogadishu in response to the Somali government’s declaration of war against the militant group.
Al Shabaab suicide bombers detonated a vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED) in an attempt to assassinate the new commander of the Somali National Army (SNA), General Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, outside the Defense Ministry headquarters on April 9. Another al Shabaab bomber detonated a suicide vest inside a SNA training camp in Mogadishu on April 10. The two attacks, which killed at least 22 people, displayed sophisticated planning and intelligence capabilities. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared war on al Shabaab and shuffled Somalia’s top security officials on April 6. This state of flux gave al Shabaab an opportunity to attack vulnerable SNA targets in the capital. (Related reading: US Counterterrorism Objectives in Somalia: Is Mission Failure Likely?)
Citations & Links
Hostilities will escalate between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and militias aligned with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in southwestern Libya in the near term, as the LNA continues its efforts to expand into GNA-controlled territory.
Forces loyal to the Defense Minister of the GNA deployed toward Tamnahent airbase in southwestern Libya’s Fezzan region to counter the LNA. The LNA seeks to seize the base and a nearby oil field from GNA-aligned forces. LNA reinforcements also mobilized toward Tamnahent. The Fezzan conflict will pull on a complex web of alliances and lead to conflict on other fronts, likely Tripoli, Sirte district, and the oil crescent region. (Related reading: Ignoring History: America’s Losing Strategy in Libya)