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 continues to delay Kuwait talks; pro-Hadi forces and allied militias continue to clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces in Sana’a, Ma’rib, al Jawf, and Taiz governorates; AQAP consolidates control in al Mukalla, Hadramawt; pro-Ansar al Sharia media outlet focuses on U.S. and coalition air campaigns
Horn of Africa: Clan militia kills seven civilians in Marka, Lower Shabelle region; Russian Foreign Minister expresses interest in funding SFG counterterrorism operations; Somali MP calls for Galmudug administration to negotiate peace deal with ASWJ
Yemen Security Brief
- Representatives of the al Houthi Ansar Allah party and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) are refusing to attend UN-led peace talks in Kuwait, which were supposed to begin on April 18. Al Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam called for the Saudi-led coalition to halt all sorties and airstrikes, as well as all ground offensives by coalition-backed forces, in an April 18 statement. Abdul Salam also called for the United Nations to clarify the agenda for the talks, emphasizing the need for a process based on consensus and partnership. The proposal likely aims to challenge UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for the al Houthis to disarm and withdraw from captured territories and which forms the basis for the Kuwait talks. A GPC official reportedly described the refusal as an attempt to put pressure on Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government and its coalition backers, suggesting the al Houthi-GPC delegation would eventually attend the talks. A Hadi government official expressed the same view on April 18. The Hadi government delegation condemned its counterpart’s maneuvering and reiterated its commitment to achieving peace in an April 18 statement. The prior round of UN-brokered peace talks failed in early 2016 after both sides failed to fulfill pre-established confidence building measures.
- Forces loyal to President Hadi and allied militias continued to clash with al Houthi forces and allied troops loyal to former president Saleh in Sana’a, Ma’rib, al Jawf, and Taiz governorates. Fighting centered in Nihm district, northwest of the capital Sana’a; north of al Jawf’s capital, al Hazm; in Sirwah district, Ma’rib, near the border with Sana’a; and in Taiz city. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also reportedly reinforced positions in Ma’rib and Nihm, Sana’a. Both sides have accused the other of violating the UN-sponsored ceasefire, which began on April 10, though neither side has formally canceled the ceasefire.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is consolidating control in its stronghold of al Mukalla, Hadramawt. The group reportedly took over control of al Mukalla’s airport from forces affiliated with the pro-Ansar al Sharia Hadhrami Domestic Council, while also evacuating and planting explosives around nearby al Dhaba oil terminal. AQAP also arrested seven Yemeni fighters from a camp north of al Mukalla in Wadi Hadramawt, where the UAE is reportedly training forces for operations against AQAP. AQAP is also redistributing property from northern landowners to local tribal leaders in an effort to shore up support, according to reports. The UAE, a core member of the Saudi-led coalition, recently led an operation to recapture AQAP-held al Hawta in Lahij governorate, amid reports the country is seeking U.S. assistance for an expanded counterterrorism campaign in Yemen.
- Wikalat al Athir, a media outlet supportive of AQAP’s insurgent arm Ansar al Sharia, published photos of damage from two coalition airstrikes near Ja’ar and Zinjibar in Abyan governorate on April 17. The group also published a video featuring individuals wounded in the March 22 U.S. airstrike on an AQAP training camp in al Hajr district, Hadramawt governorate, which reportedly killed over 70 militants. Wikalat al Athir primarily publicizes Ansar al Sharia’s governance and da’wa, or Islamic outreach, activities, but has recently focused on the Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign against AQAP.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A clan militia set fire to a house in Marka, Lower Shabelle region, killing a mother and her six children on April 18. The violence is part of an inter-clan conflict that has erupted in and around Marka over the past three days. Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops attempted to mediate talks between the two groups earlier on April 18 but the negotiations may have collapsed. Somali clans often fight over natural resources but local sources claim that this week’s clashes in Marka are linked to regional political loyalties.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would consider providing military assistance to the Somali Federal Government (SFG) to combat al Shabaab during an April 18 meeting with Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke in Moscow. Lavrov did not specify an amount or timeline for the funding. The SFG is actively seeking international backers since the United Nations cut its annual funding to Somalia by 20 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.
- Muhaydin Sunn, a Somali member of parliament, called on the Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA) to negotiate a formal and lasting peace with Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama’a (ASWJ), a Sufi paramilitary group. Sunn claimed that it is the IGA’s responsibility as the current regional government to make peace and accept ASWJ members into the Galmudug territories. ASWJ is a moderate Islamist group that currently controls Dhusamareb town and surrounding areas in Galgudug region.