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: Coalition-backed forces recapture al Mukalla, Hadramawt from AQAP; AQAP detonates VBIED in response to coalition-backed offensive in Zinjibar, Abyan; UN-led peace talks continue in Kuwait
Horn of Africa: ISIS claims IED attack in Daynile district, Mogadishu; NISA arrests pro-ISIS militant in Dharkenley district, Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants commit suicide during SNA-AMISOM raid near Burhakaba, Bay region; SNA and AMISOM forces attack al Shabaab checkpoint outside Kismayo, Lower Shabelle region
Yemen Security Brief
- Saudi and Emirati special forces and Yemeni troops loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi recaptured al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on April 24. The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on al Mukalla overnight before approximately 2,000 troops advanced on the city. The coalition claimed to kill more than 800 militants during the operation, but local sources stated that AQAP withdrew from the city before any significant fighting occurred. Pro-Hadi forces also recaptured al Shihr, Hadramawt and al Dhaba oil terminal, as well as al Mukalla’s airport. AQAP captured al Mukalla in April 2015 and used it as a base from which to acquire millions of dollars in customs revenues and plan external attacks.
- Forces loyal to President Hadi retreated after an attempt to recapture Zinjibar, Abyan governorate from AQAP on April 23. AQAP militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) targeting an army convoy that killed seven soldiers and injured 14 others. Pro-Hadi forces withdrew following reports that AQAP had planned additional VBIED attacks. The Hadi government had reportedly given AQAP a 24-hour window in which to peacefully withdraw from Zinjibar by April 23. Forces loyal to President Hadi also carried out an offensive operation in Ja’ar, Abyan governorate that killed 25 AQAP militants and four soldiers and seized al Koud, three miles south of Zinjibar. Saudi-led coalition helicopters will reportedly conduct strikes on AQAP positions in Zinjibar to help pro-Hadi Yemeni forces return and secure the city.
- UN-brokered peace negotiations continued between the al Houthis, the General People’s Congress (GPC) party led by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and President Hadi’s delegation in Kuwait City on April 24. Both delegations agreed on April 23 to appoint an official from each side to serve on ceasefire-monitoring in contested governorates. President Hadi’s delegation suggested that the ceasefire include confidence-building components such as the release of political prisoners. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed suspended the session after an hour into the talks due to the lack of progress between the delegations, according to reports. President Hadi’s delegation wants the discussion to center around al Houthi disarmament and withdrawal from the capital Sana’a, while the al Houthi-GPC delegation seeks to implement the unification of the government before disarming.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) claimed that ISIS militants targeted an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) vehicle with an improvised explosive device (IED) near Tardish in Daynile district, Mogadishu on April 24. The message said that the IED destroyed the vehicle but did not indicate that it caused any casualties. This is the first attack that ISIS has claimed in Somalia.
- Somali National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA) officers arrested a former al Shabaab operational commander identified as Hassan Fanah in the Dharkenley district of Mogadishu on April 24. Fanah reportedly defected from al Shabaab to ISIS in October 2015 and is suspected of planning ambushes and attacks against AMISOM and Somali National Army troops on the outskirts of Mogadishu. It is unknown whether Fanah played a role in the IED attack claimed by ISIS in Mogadishu earlier on April 24.
- Six al Shabaab militants committed suicide during a Somali National Army (SNA)-AMISOM raid on a house in Raydable village near Burhakaba in Bay region, Somalia on April 24. Somali military sources claim that multiple explosions were heard as the assault teams approached the house. The troops also captured three militants. SNA and Ethiopian AMISOM troops have been attempting to clear al Shabaab militants from Bay region over the past two months with a focus on rural villages on the outskirts of larger settlements.
- SNA and AMISOM troops attacked an al Shabaab checkpoint in Abdi Birole village near Kismayo, Lower Shabelle region on April 24. Kenyan fighter jets bombed the Abdi Birole checkpoint on April 22 to shape the area for the ground attack. No casualty estimates were available for either operation. Al Shabaab currently maintains a presence in several small towns outside Kismayo and controls many roads in the area.
 “Yemen govt forces retake key port city from Qaeda,” Agence France Presse, April 25, 2016 https://www.yahoo.com/news/800-al-qaeda-fighters-killed-yemen-anti-jihad-022214328.html; and Mohammed Mukhashaf and Mohammed Ghobari, “UPDATE 3-Yemeni, UAE troops seize Qaeda-held seaport city-residents,” Reuters, April 24, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/yemen-security-qaeda-idUSL5N17R0EX.
 “Bombing kills 7 Yemen soldiers in anti-Qaeda offensive,” Agence France Presse, April 24, 2016 http://www.france24.com/en/20160424-bombing-kills-7-yemen-soldiers-anti-qaeda-offensive; and “al Qaeda demands a 24-hour deadline to respond to a formal request to withdraw from Zinjibar,” Aden al Ghad, April 22, 2016, http://adengd.net/news/202059/#.Vx4un_krJpi.
 “Differences persist as Yemen peace talks enter 4th day,” Agence Presse France, April 24, 2016, https://www.yahoo.com/news/differences-persist-yemen-peace-talks-enter-4th-day-105109758.html; and “Yemen peace talks in Kuwait stall over differences,” Al Jazeera, April 24, 2016 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/yemen-peace-talks-kuwait-hit-impasse-160424142733651.html.
 “IS CLAIMS ITS FIRST ATTACK IN SOMALIA, BOMBING AMISOM VEHICLE IN CAPITAL,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 25, 2016, Available by subscription through www.siteintelgroup.com.
“Somali security forces capture wanted Al shabaab leader,” Shabelle News, April 25, 2016, http://shabellenews.com/?p=30013.
 “Multiple Suicide Blasts reported in Somalia,” Shabelle News, April 24, 2016, http://shabellenews.com/?p=29974; and “Six al Shabaab fighters blow themselves up in Burhakaba following police raid,” Goobjoog News, April 24, 2016, http://goobjoog.com/english/?p=28148.
 “AMISOM and SNA troops overrun Al shabaab base,” Shabelle News, April 24, 2016, http://shabellenews.com/?p=30002; and “Kenyan military jets bomb Al shabaab bases in Somalia,” Shabelle News, April 24, 2016, http://shabellenews.com/?p=29874.