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-GPC delegation delays Kuwait talks, citing continued airstrikes; thousands rally for South Yemen independence in Aden; U.S. transfers nine Yemeni Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia; pro-Hadi security forces interdict two VBIEDs in Aden; Saudi-led coalition launches airstrikes on AQAP targets in southern Yemen
Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants kill UN employee in Dharkenley district, Mogadishu; NISA officers kill suspected al Shabaab militant and seize weapons in Yaqshid district, Mogadishu; al Shabaab’s zakat director for Galgudud region surrenders to SNA in Gal’ad; SNA and AMISOM forces attack al Shabaab base in Bur Eyle, Bay region; NISA officers seize car filled with weapons, explosives in Daynile district, Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
- Delegates from the al Houthi Ansar Allah party and the General People’s Congress party, which is led by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, refused to travel to Kuwait for peace talks scheduled to begin on April 18, citing a lack of respect for the UN-brokered ceasefire. Al Houthi and GPC officials, who remain in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, stated they would not participate in the talks without a full halt to the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes. Both airstrikes and ground fighting have continued during the ceasefire, and both sides have accused each other of ceasefire violations. Representatives of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government arrived in Kuwait on April 16. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed praised the Hadi government delegation and called on the al Houthi-Saleh delegation to join the talks, which will be delayed until the Sana’a delegation’s arrival. Hadi government representatives indicated that they expect their counterparts to arrive on April 19 and criticized the al Houthi-GPC delegation’s complaints as delay tactics. Officials from both sides expressed optimism in the days leading up to the talks, with al Houthi officials acknowledging the released of 30 prisoners by the Saudi-led coalition on April 17. A prior round of talks in mid-January broke down when preliminary confidence-building measures, including adherence to a ceasefire and the release of high value prisoners, failed.
- Thousands of Yemenis called for the independence of South Yemen in rallies in Aden on April 17 and 18. Aden’s Governor Aydarus al Zubaidi reportedly ordered additional security for the rallies and expressed his support for the demonstrations in an appearance on April 18. South Yemen was a sovereign state from 1967 to 1990. Pro-secession demonstrations have grown more frequent in the weeks leading up to the UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait.
- The United States released nine Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia on April 16. The detainees include Ali Yahya Mahdi al Raymi, the brother of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emir Qasim al Raymi. Saudi Arabia will enroll the detainees in a program designed to reintegrate Islamist militants into society. The transfer is the first transfer of non-Saudi citizens to the Kingdom. U.S. forces captured the nine detainees in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has transferred a number of Yemeni detainees to other states, including Oman, due to the ongoing conflict and security situation in Yemen.
- Security forces loyal to President Hadi interdicted two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in Aden on April 17. Security forces fired on one suicide VBIED (SVBIED) targeting a checkpoint near Aden International Airport but failed to prevent the militant from detonating the vehicle, which killed four soldiers and wounded two others. The security forces successfully cleared the second VBIED, also located near the airport. No group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Militant activity in Aden has decreased alongside a coalition-backed campaign to clear militant strongholds, though ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan has conducted suicide vest and SVBIED attacks in Aden in recent weeks.
- The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on suspected AQAP positions in southern Yemen on April 16 and 17. Strikes targeted AQAP militants north of al Hawta, Lahij governorate on April 16, one day after coalition-backed forces claimed to recapture the city from AQAP. The coalition also conducted two strikes in AQAP-held Zinjibar in Abyan governorate on April 17 and a strike on a vehicle carrying militants into Aden from Abyan governorate on April 17. The Saudi-led coalition began conducting airstrikes on militants in southern and eastern Yemen in February.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Suspected al Shabaab militants killed two women in a drive-by shooting in the Dharkenley district of Mogadishu on April 17. Somali security forces suspect that one of the victims was targeted due to her employment at the United Nations High Commission on Refugees office in Mogadishu. Al Shabaab often attacks employees of foreign aid and development organizations in Mogadishu.
- Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officers killed a suspected al Shabaab militant and seized several weapons in the Bondhere neighborhood of Yaqshid district, Mogadishu on April 18. NISA claimed that the incident occurred following a drive-by shooting in which the militants killed two civilians. It is unknown if this shooting was related to the April 17 shooting in Dharkenley district, Mogadishu.
- Ahmed Mohamud Afrah, al Shabaab’s zakat or religious tax director for Galgudud region, surrendered to the Somali National Army (SNA) in a village near Gal’ad town on April 17. Afrah said that he decided to take the Somali Federal Government’s (SFG) amnesty offer for al Shabaab fighters because lack of freedom and other circumstances within the militant group had made him fear for his life. The group has cracked down violently on militants who have voiced support for ISIS, but it is unknown if Afrah belonged to a pro-ISIS faction.
- SNA units supported by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops launched an assault on an al Shabaab base in Bur Eyle village near Bur Hakaba in Bay region, Somalia on April 16. The Bur Hakaba District Commissioner said that the operation was conducted to prevent further attacks as SNA forces secure rural villages in Bay region.
- NISA officers seized a car loaded with multiple weapons and gas cylinders in the Daynile District of Mogadishu on April 17. NISA officials said that the contents of the car, which included several assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), belonged to an al Shabaab cell that was planning a suicide attack in Mogadishu. NISA arrested five suspects following the interdiction.