Gulf of Aden Security Review

A regularly updated review of both Yemen and the Horn of Africa covering topics related to security, governance, and militant activity.{{authorBox.message}}

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Yemen: Al Houthis and Hadi government agree to first nationwide cease-fire since 2016; IS media releases video of IS militants targeting al Houthis in southern Yemen; Saudi-led coalition forces and al Houthis exchange attacks after supporting UN-backed nationwide cease-fire; al Houthi leader offers exchanging Saudi prisoners in Yemen for Hamas members detained in Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Kenyan media reports on unidentified intelligence report revealing al Shabaab infighting over finances

Yemen Security Brief:

The al Houthi movement and the internationally recognized Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed on March 25 to the first nationwide cease-fire in Yemen since 2016. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the warring parties to implement an immediate cease-fire in an effort to deescalate the conflict and stop a potential coronavirus outbreak on March 25.[1]

Islamic-State linked Amaq News released a video on March 24 showing the Islamic State in Yemen's activities against al Houthi militants in Qayfa in al Bayda governorate in southern Yemen. Islamic State militants claimed an attack on the al Houthi militants in Qayfa in early March.[2]

Saudi-led coalition forces claimed that they intercepted and destroyed al Houthi drones targeting Abha and Khamis Mushait cities in southwestern Saudi Arabia on March 27. Saudi-led coalition forces also claimed bombing al Houthi drone landing pads and raiding an al Houthi militant site in Harf Sufyan district in Amran governorate, north of the Yemeni capital Sana’a on March 27. Al Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said on March 27 that the al Houthi militants intercepted Saudi-led coalition aircraft flying over Ma’rib governorate in northern Yemen. These claims come two days after an al Houthi official welcomed the Saudi-led coalition’s support for the UN’s call to a cease-fire between the al Houthi movement and the Hadi government.[3]

Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi offered in late March to release a Saudi pilot and four Saudi officers from Yemen in exchange for Hamas members detained in Saudi Arabia.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

A Kenyan newspaper reported on an unidentified intelligence report that claimed al Shabaab’s recent infighting stemmed from the group’s financial disputes. Al Shabaab leader Ahmad Umar accused the head of al Shabaab’s Amniyat (intelligence) Brigade, Mahad Karate, of hoarding money from al Shabaab’s taxation program for his clan. Karate argued that his Hawiye clan deserved most of the group’s finances for being Somalia’s largest clan. Umar has reportedly attempted to build a coalition of smaller Somali clans against Hawiye influence in the group. The Hawiye clan resisted Umar’s attempt to expel Karate from al Shabaab in early February.[5]


[1] “Warring parties in Yemen agree ceasefire to prevent coronavirus to prevent coronavirus outbreak,” Financial Times, March 26, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/f715b4ce-32ff-4aa8-be3a-5ae83e17c929; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 26, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 24, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-26-2020.

[2] “’Amaq News Agency Presents Video Report on IS Military Activities Against al Houthis in Bayda’,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 26, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; and Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, March 15, 2020, https://twitter.com/Dr_E_Kendall/status/1239234284814241793.

[3] “Saudi-led coalition destroys drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward kingdom,” Reuters, March 26, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-houthis-drones/saudi-led-coalition-destroys-drones-launched-by-yemens-houthis-towards-kingdom-idUSKBN21D3UG; “The coalition bombed platforms for drones in Imran,” 7adramout, March 27,2020, https://www.7adramout.net/almashhadalaraby/7340419/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%8A%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%81-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86.html; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 26, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 24, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-26-2020.

[4] “Yemen’s al-houthi offers to exchange saudi pilots for hamas prisoners,” Middle East Monitor, March 27, 2020, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200327-yemens-al-houthi-offers-to-exchange-saudi-pilots-for-hamas-prisoners/.

[5] Allan Olingo, “Al-Shabaab Leaders Split Over Funds Control,” Daily Nation, March 27, 2020, https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Shabaab-leaders-split-over-funds-control/1056-5505532-9a3qfh/index.html.

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Yemen: Al Houthi official welcomes Saudi-led coalition’s support for UN call to cease-fire between al Houthis and Hadi government; al Houthi movement orders release of prisoners jailed for practicing Baha’i religion

Horn of Africa: SNA repels al Shabaab attack on SNA base in central Somalia; al Shabaab militants detonate IED targeting Jubbaland State district commissioner in southern Somalia; Islamic State’s Central Africa Province claims raid on Mozambican army posts in northern Mozambique; al Shabaab reports on internal conference held in southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief:

Chairman of the al Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee Mohammad Ali al Houthi released a statement on March 26 welcoming the Saudi-led coalition’s support for the UN’s call to a cease-fire agreement in Yemen. Saudi-led coalition forces announced their support for the UN’s call to a cease-fire between the al Houthi militants and the internationally recognized Yemeni government on March 25. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres released a statement on March 25 calling on Yemen’s warring parties to implement an immediate cease-fire in an effort to deescalate the conflict and stop a potential coronavirus outbreak.[1]

Al Houthi leader of the Supreme Political Council Mahdi al Mashat ordered on March 25 the release of all prisoners in Yemen jailed for practicing the Baha’i religion. Mashat granted amnesty to the religious minority group’s leader Hamed bin Haydara, who the al Houthi movement sentenced to death in January 2018. The US Department of State condemned al Houthi actions against members of the Baha’i religious community in Yemen in May 2018. The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religious minority in Yemen that draws upon elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. [2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

Somali National Army (SNA) forces repelled an al Shabaab attack on a military base near Daynunay in central Somalia’s Bay region on March 25. A military spokesman stated that SNA forces killed 12 al Shabaab militants during the assault. Al Shabaab claimed the attack killed four SNA soldiers. Al Shabaab previously attacked the Daynunay military base in August 2019.[3]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device targeting a convoy carrying a Jubbaland State district commissioner near Ras Kamboni in southwestern Somalia’s Badhadhe district on March 25. The blast killed the commissioner, his three bodyguards, and wounded several Kenyan Defense Force soldiers traveling with the convoy. Al Shabaab claimed the attack only targeted KDF soldiers.[4]

The Islamic State’s Central Africa Province claimed a raid on two Mozambican army posts in Quissanga in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province on March 25. The group claimed a separate attack on a Mozambican army barracks in Mocimboa da Praia in the Cabo Delgado province on March 23.[5]

Al Shabaab reported that the group held a conference called, “Consultative Forum Regarding the Jihad in East Africa,” at an undisclosed location in southern Somalia from March 13 to 18. Somali intellectuals, tribal leaders, Islamic leaders, and al Shabaab leaders met to discuss al Shabaab’s ongoing campaign against the Somali Federal Government. Islamic legal scholars at the conference released fatwas denouncing upcoming Somali federal elections and US Africa Command’s airstrike campaign. This is the first time al Shabaab has openly reported on one of its meetings.[6]


[1] “UN chief calls for ceasefire as Yemen braces for possible COVID-19 outbreak,” UN, March 25, 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1060302; and “Al Houthi leader: the coalition’s declaration of acceptance of the ceasefire is welcome,” Yemen Akhbar, March 26, 2020, https://www.yemenakhbar.com/2346570

[2] “Baha’i prisoners in yemen to be released by Houthi government,” Middle East Monitor, March 26, 2020, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200326-bahai-prisoners-in-yemen-to-be-released-by-houthi-government/; and Miranda Morton and Tomás Padgett Perez and Matthew Cassidy, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - December 2, 2019,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, May 15, 2018, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-may-15-2018.

[3] “Somali forces recapture Daynunay village after Al-Shabaab attack,” Somali Affairs, March 25, 2020, https://www.somaliaffairs.com/news/somali-forces-recapture-daynunay-village-after-al-shabaab-attack/; and Kevin Phelan and Hennessey Herrera, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - December 2, 2019,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, December 2, 2019, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-december-2-2019.

[4] “Governor and 3 aides killed in Al-Shabaab blast targeting KDF troops,” Garowe, March 26, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-governor-and-3-aides-killed-in-al-shabaab-blast-targeting-kdf-troops.

[5] “Just 2 Days After Major Raid in Mocimboa da Praia, ISCAP Claims Attack on Mozambican Army Posts in Quissanga,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 25, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 24, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 24, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-24-2020.

[6] “Inside Al-Shabaab’s ‘crisis conference’ amid US military airstrikes in Somalia,” Garowe, March 26, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/inside-al-shabaabs-crisis-conference-amid-us-military-airstrikes-in-somalia.

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Yemen: Al Houthis prevent UN ship carrying Hadi government liaison officers from leaving al Hudaydah governorate; Saudi-led coalition forces launch airstrikes on al Houthis in al Jawf governorate; HRW accuses Saudi-led coalition forces of arresting and illegally transferring residents from al Mahrah governorate to Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates suicide vest in Mogadishu; Somali special forces arrest senior al Shabaab militant in southern Somalia

Yemen:

The al Houthi movement prevented a UN ship from leaving al Hudaydah port in al Hudaydah governorate in western Yemen on March 24. The ship was carrying liaison officers from the internationally recognized Yemeni government and intended to travel to the southwestern Yemeni port of Mocha. Several liaison officers suspended their participation in UN observation posts established to monitor a cease-fire in the governorate in mid-March after al Houthi militants shot and injured a liaison officer in al Hudaydah governorate.[1]

Saudi-led coalition forces launched airstrikes on al Houthi militants in Khub wa al Shaf district in al Jawf governorate in northern Yemen on March 25, according to local sources. Saudi-led coalition forces launched airstrikes on al Houthi sites in Khub wa al Shaf district the day prior.[2]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Saudi-led coalition forces of arresting and illegally transferring Yemenis from al Mahrah governorate in eastern Yemen to Saudi Arabia for demonstrating against coalition forces. HRW published a report on March 25 detailing Saudi-led coalition force abuses against al Mahrah residents.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

An al Shabaab militant detonated a suicide vest near Somalia’s Parliament in the Somali capital Mogadishu on March 25. Witnesses reported that the blast killed two civilians. Al Shabaab claimed the attack targeted Somali National Army forces guarding the Parliament, killing nine soldiers and wounding 24 others. This is al Shabaab’s first suicide attack in Mogadishu since detonating a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device targeting Turkish engineers in late January.[4]

Somali Danab special forces captured an al Shabaab commander in Wanlaweyn in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on March 24. Somali military sources identified the commander as a tax collector and member of al Shabaab’s Amniyat (intelligence) brigade. Danab forces arrested the Amniyat’s Lower Shabelle regional leader in Janaale on March 16.[5]


[1] “Yemen’s Houthis block UN ship from leaving Hodeidah,” The Daily Star, March 24, 2020, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2020/Mar-24/503274-yemens-houthis-block-un-ship-from-leaving-hodeidah.ashx; and Samuel Bloebaum and Pamela Makadsi, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 12, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 12, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-12-2020

[2] “Arab coalition aircraft launches dozens of raids on houthi sites and movements,” Al Mashhad al Yemeni, March 25, 2020, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/161169; and Samuel Bloebaum and Pamela Makadsi, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 24, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 24, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-24-2020.

[3] “HRW: Saudi forces torture, disappear Yemeni civilians,” Al Jazeera, March 25, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/hrw-saudi-forces-torture-disappear-yemeni-civilians-200324170557149.html; and “ Yemen: Saudi forces torture, ‘disappear’ Yemenis, Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/25/yemen-saudi-forces-torture-disappear-yemenis#.

[4] Abdi Guled, “Somalia suicide bomber detonates in tea shop, killing 2,” Associated Press, March 25, 2020, https://apnews.com/2d9672a72a68857003ae55c1cd4c5a5e; “Shabaab Claims Suicide Bombing on SNA Troops in Mogadishu,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 25, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; and Jessica Kocan, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - January 21, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, January 21, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-january-21-2020.

[5] “Somalia's Special Forces seize another senior Al-Shabaab commander,” Garowe, March 25, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalias-special-forces-seize-another-senior-al-shabaab-commander; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 23, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 23, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-23-2020.

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