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: UN-sponsored peace talks began in Kuwait; Saudi-led coalition bombs AQAP positions in Abyan; al Houthi-Saleh forces clash with popular resistance forces in Taiz city
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab abducts schoolchildren from Harardhere district, Mudug region; SNA and AMISOM forces kill several al Shabaab militants in northeastern Bakool region; NISA intercepts two possible al Shabaab SVBIEDs in Wadajir district, Mogadishu; Somali police search for al Shabaab explosives expert in Bardere, Gedo region
Yemen Security Brief
- UN-led peace negotiations began in Kuwait on April 21 after the arrival of the al Houthi-General People’s Congress party (GPC) delegation. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed outlined a five-point agenda for the talks, which are based on the UN Security Council Resolution 2216. This resolution calls for the disarmament of al Houthi forces and those loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as their withdrawal from seized territories. The al Houthi-GPC delegation delayed the talks for several days, citing ceasefire violations by the Saudi-led coalition and dissatisfaction with the talks’ agenda, which includes the requirement that they agree to UNSCR 2216 before an agreement is reached. The al Houthi-GPC delegation demands an end to coalition operations and the naval blockade and asks that the UN lifts sanctions against some of its leaders. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi announced that the delegation loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi will not accept any changes to the agenda put forth by the UN. The initial negotiations will likely focus on confidence-building measures, such as prisoner exchanges.
- The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) positions in Zinjibar and Ja’ar, Abyan governorate on April 21. The airstrikes reportedly targeted AQAP’s political security headquarters and a training camp. Military forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi have been preparing to purge Zinjibar of AQAP militants according to local sources. AQAP took Zinjibar and Ja’ar on December 2, 2015 and were part of an AQAP emirate in Abyan in 2011-2012.
- Al Houthi-Saleh forces clashed with popular resistance forces in Taiz city. Pro-al Houthi and pro-Hadi media outlets have each blamed the other side for initiating the clashes. Al Houthi-Saleh forces reportedly shelled civilian areas and continue to disrupt movement into and out of Taiz at its eastern and northern entrances, as well as at a key junction west of the city and along the southwestern road through al Dhabab. The clashes coincide with ongoing peace negotiations in Kuwait and may increase tensions between the parties involved in the talks.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants reportedly abducted between 10 and 12 schoolchildren from a village school in Harardhere district, Mudug region on April 19. Al Shabaab’s operational strength in north central Somalia was diminished following a failed incursion into Puntland in mid March. The group is known to kidnap teenagers and train them as militants, and may have kidnapped the children to replenish its ranks.
- Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops killed three al Shabaab militants and wounded four others during clearing operations in northeastern Bakool region on April 22. The SNA and AMISOM forces reportedly cleared militants from the villages of Gobato, War-Adey, and Gumuro near Wajid town. Al Shabaab has been known to control roads in the area and routinely blocks food and humanitarian aid from reaching remote villages.
- The Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) foiled a complex attack on a hotel in Wardhigley district, Mogadishu on April 22. NISA officers seized two possible al Shabaab suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) and the drivers of both vehicles. Gunfire from the NISA officers caused one vehicle to explode and injure three civilians. Al Shabaab carried out a similar attack on February 26 against the Somali Youth League Hotel in Mogadishu that killed 14 civilians and four NISA officers.
- Somali police conducted several raids in search of an al Shabaab explosives expert in Bardere town, Gedo region on April 21. The suspect was not named, but a police spokesperson claimed that he was responsible for a recent roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attack that killed one person and wounded several others. Police did not locate the suspect.