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.

Yemen: Al Houthi-Saleh forces release U.S. citizen from Sana’a following Omani intercession; al Houthi-Saleh forces clashed with pro-Hadi forces in Taiz and Ma’rib after a ceasefire begins; Ansar al Sharia denies responsibility for ambush of pro-Hadi soldiers in Ahwar, Abyan on April 9

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates VBIED outside restaurant in Shibis district, Mogadishu; al Shabaab detonates SVBIED at Mogadishu mayor’s office; one hundred al Shabaab militants raid Diff town in Wajir County, Kenya; Somali police execute al Shabaab spokesperson Hassan Hanafi; al Shabaab video details El Adde base attack

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Houthis and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh released an American man from captivity in Sana’a on April 8, following an intercession by Oman’s Foreign Ministry. Oman claims to have contacted militia authorities in the capital to free the U.S. citizen, who was then flown from Sana’a to Muscat, Oman. Oman has negotiated the release of American detainees from Yemen in the past, most recently in November 2015.[1]
  • A UN-sponsored ceasefire began in Yemen at midnight (2100 GMT) on April 10, following an agreement by representatives from President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, the al Houthis, and the pro-Saleh General People’s Congress party. Fighting broke out shortly after the ceasefire began in Taiz city and Ma’rib. Al Houthi-Saleh forces clashed with popular resistance forces in the eastern front of Taiz and in al Hilan in Ma’rib governorate. The ceasefire is intended to support UN-led peace talks set to begin in Kuwait on April 18. The negotiations will focus on relief assistance, disarming militias, delivering heavy weapons to the state, and establishing a committee for the release of prisoners and detainees, according to UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.[2]
  • Ansar al Sharia, the insurgent wing of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), denied responsibility for the death of approximately 15 soldiers loyal to President Hadi, who were ambushed by militants in Ahwar, Abyan governorate on April 9 while traveling from Aden. Ansar al Sharia blamed the attack on a local fighter named Ali Aqeel. Local sources suggested that Aqeel supports the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), but Ansar al Sharia did not make this claim. AQAP operates in the vicinity of Ahwar but does not control the town.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab detonated a vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED) outside the Rajo restaurant in the Shibis district of central Mogadishu on April 9, killing at least three and injuring an unknown number of civilians. Sources said that Somali security forces frequent the restaurant, suggesting that the attack is part of al Shabaab’s  ongoing campaign targeting Somali government and security officials.[4]
  • Al Shabaab detonated a suicide vehicle-born improvised explosive device (SVBIED) at  the mayor’s office in Hamarweyne district, Mogadishu on April 11, killing at least three people and injuring five. Al Shabaab spokesperson Abdiaziz Abu Musab claimed responsibility for the attack. Local sources suspect that the attack was retribution for the execution of al Shabaab spokesman Hassan Hanafi on April 9, but al Shabaab has not commented on the execution. [5]
  • Approximately 100 Al Shabaab militants raided Diff town in Wajir County, northeastern Kenya on April 10. The militants reportedly burned several houses, looted a police station, and clashed with local police forces for roughly two hours before fleeing the town with stolen police vehicles and ammunition. Wajir County is located near the Kenyan-Somali border and al Shabaab militants have conducted similar cross-border raids there in the past.[6]
  • Somali police executed former al Shabaab media spokesperson and assassin Hassan Hanafi in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on April 9. A Somali military court sentenced Hanafi and an accomplice to death by firing squad last month for the December 2015 assassination of Somali journalist Hindiyo Mohamed near the KM4 Junction in Mogadishu. Kenyan security forces captured the suspects in Kenya several days after the assassination and extradited them to Somalia. [7] 
  • Al Shabaab released a 48 minute long video detailing its January 15 attack on a Kenyan Forward Operating Base (FOB) at El Adde in the Gedo region of Somalia. The video shows approximately 150 al Shabaab militants attacking the base with a mix of light arms and vehicle-mounted weapons.  It also shows footage of a militant detonating an SVBIED to breach the base’s perimeter. The video appears to confirm al Shabaab’s claim that it killed over 100 Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers in the attack. The Kenyan government is facing popular backlash for failing to release the total number of Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers killed during the attack.[8]  

[1] “Oman says American man detained in rebel-held Yemeni capital freed,” Fox, April 9,2016,
[2] Mohammed Ghobari and Sylvia Westall, “Warring Yemen sides begin truce, warn against violations,” Reuters, April 10,2016; “Yemen conflict: Clashes rattle shaky truce,” BBC, April 11,2016, and “Ould Cheikh welcomes the beginning of the ceasefire in Yemen and calls to discuss concessions,” Barakish, April 11,2016  
[3] “Yemen: Gunmen ambush troops, execute 20 by firing squad,” Al Jazeera, April 9,2016 “‘Qaeda ambush’ kills at least 20 Yemen soldiers: military source,” Daily Mail, APril 9,2016 and “al Qaeda accuses ISIS with the massacre of soldiers in Abyan,” Barakish, April 9,2016,
[4] “Somalia: Car bomb blast kills Three in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, April 9, 2016,; Kaafi Cade, “Car bomb explosion in Mogadishu leaves 3 people dead,” Xogdoon News, April 9, 2016,
[5] Abdi Sheikh, “Car bomb rams into Mogadishu's local government headquarter,” April 11, 2016,  
[6] Ismail Noor and Adow Mohamed,”Al Shabaab injure two cops, escape with Land Cruiser in raid at Wajir post,” The Star,; “Al Shabaab attacks a police post at Kenya-Somalia border,” Shabelle News, April 10, 2016,  
[7] Mohammed Olad, “Somali Militants Executed for Murder of Journalist,” Voice of America, April 9, 2016,   
[8] “Shabaab Releases Video on January 2016 Raid at KDF Camp in El-Adde,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 10, 2016, source available upon request.
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