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: U.S. and coalition airstrikes target AQAP in central and southern Yemen; peace talks resume after canceled session; Zinjibar residents protest AQAP; Shabwah tribes declare opposition to AQAP; suspected ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan militants assassinate director of Aden traffic police
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants attack SNA barracks in Huriwa district, Mogadishu; al Shabaab ambushes Ethiopian AMISOM convoy near Nur Fahah, Hiraan region; al Shabaab reports on clan conflict mediation efforts in Lower Shabelle region
Yemen Security Brief
- A reported U.S. airstrike killed three suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in the Markhat Bahyan area in northwestern Shabwah governorate on April 28. A Saudi-led coalition airstrike targeted suspected AQAP militants to the east and west of al Hawta, the capital of southwestern Lahij governorate, on April 29. Reported U.S. and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have increased across southern and central Yemen following AQAP’s withdrawal from al Mukalla on April 24.
- Peace talks resumed in Kuwait on April 28 following the cancellation of a joint session due to ongoing disagreements on April 27. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with the two sides individually on April 28. The al Houthi and General People’s Congress (GPC) party delegations met with ambassadors from the members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, Japan, and the European Union. The al Houthi delegation reportedly met separately with the ambassadors of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to discuss solutions to the conflict in line with prior unofficial talks between al Houthi and Saudi officials, which had facilitated a border ceasefire and prisoner exchanges. The Special Envoy held a joint session with representatives from both sides on April 28 in which the parties renewed their commitment to the peace process. The negotiating parties, which include the al Houthi Ansar Allah party, the GPC, and Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government, are expected to submit two papers on political and security issues. The Kuwait peace talks began on April 21 and have entered their second week without any major breakthroughs. Both sides continue to express commitment to reaching an agreement.
- Residents of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate, demonstrated against AQAP on April 29, the first such demonstration since AQAP captured the city in December 2015. The demonstrators called for the liberation of Zinjibar from AQAP, emphasizing they would not allow their city to become a base for militant activity. Yemeni government forces attempted to retake Zinjibar and the nearby city of Ja’ar form AQAP on April 23, but withdrew after AQAP launched a successful suicide vehicle-borned improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack and threatened further suicide attacks. A second government offensive with coalition air support is expected in the near term.
- The Laqmush tribe of coastal Shabwah governorate declared its opposition to AQAP in an official statement on April 28. The statement condemned the killing of several of its members and called on Shabwah’s other tribes to oppose AQAP and other so-called criminal gangs. AQAP has historically relied on tribal support to ensure freedom of movement in its areas of operation. The group has historical ties to the Awalek tribes, whose lands border Laqmush lands to the west, but has faced opposition from the Ba’awdh tribe, to the north of Laqmush. The tribe’s statement follows AQAP’s withdrawal from al Mukalla and its fighters’ subsequent dispersal throughout central and southern Yemen.
- Suspected Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan militants assassinated the director of Aden’s traffic police on April 29 in Aden’s Sheikh Othman district. The ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency claimed the attack, although the group itself has not claimed responsibility.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants attacked a Somali National Army (SNA) barracks in Huriwa district, Mogadishu on April 28. SNA soldiers repulsed the attack after skirmishing with the militants.
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed an Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troop convoy near Nur Fahah village, 42 km south of Beledweyne in Hiraan region on April 29. The militants launched the attack by detonating an improvised explosive device (IED), which destroyed an Ethiopian armored personnel carrier and injured two civilians.
- Al Shabaab publicized its clan conflict mediation efforts in Shalambood, Lower Shabelle region in a statement on April 28. The group brought clan elders from the Habargidir and Biyamaal clans together in Janale to discuss grievances that sparked intense skirmishes in and around Marka during the past two weeks. Al Shabaab’s wali (governor) for Lower Shabelle said that the militant group is “prepared to confront any tribe that seeks to break this truce and reconciliation.” The group blamed the Somali Federal Government (SFG) for the renewed clan clashes.