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. Navy intercepts suspected Iranian vessel carrying weapons bound for al Houthis in Yemen; airstrikes target AQAP militants in Abyan, Lahij, and Hadramawt governorates; Hadi government delegation arrived in Kuwait to oversee April 10 ceasefire; Saudi officials praise direct talks with al Houthi representatives
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab ambushes Somali MP in Hamar-Jabjab district, Mogadishu; AMISOM claims to kill seven al Shabaab commanders this week; al Muhajiroun in East Africa denounces Tanzanian jihadist executed by al Shabaab for espionage
Yemen Security Brief
- U.S. Navy ships intercepted a vessel in the Arabian Sea carrying weapons that likely originated from Iran and were likely intended for al Houthi fighters in Yemen on March 28. The vessel’s cargo included 1,500 AK-47 assault rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns. The Navy announced on April 4 that it had seized the cargo and released the vessel and its crew. The seizure is the third of its kind in the past two months, following interceptions of similar vessels by the Australian Navy on February 27 and the French Navy on March 20. Iran denied involvement in the weapons shipments and claimed that the accusations are Saudi psychological warfare.
- Airstrikes targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Zinjibar, Abyan governorate and in al Hawta, Lahij governorate on April 4 and in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate on April 5. Saudi-led coalition strikes on Zinjibar targeted a local government office occupied by AQAP militants. Residents reported a large fire at the scene of the attack. Coalition airstrikes also targeted militant positions north of al Hawta, the capital of Lahij governorate, which AQAP-linked militants seized in late January 2016. The strikes in Hadramawt targeted a coastal air defense base in the city of al Mukalla, as well as al Riyan air base to the east. The United States and the Saudi-led coalition have expanded their airstrike campaign on AQAP over the past month.
- Representatives from the government of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi arrived in Kuwait on April 4 to participate in a joint committee tasked with overseeing a nationwide ceasefire scheduled to begin on April 10. The team, led by Deputy Director for the Office of the President Abdullah al Alimi, submitted remarks on a draft ceasefire proposal by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Al Houthi officials released the names of their representative and announced their team’s departure for an unspecified Gulf capital on April 4 for preliminary meetings. Brigadier General Ali Ahmed al Dhafif will lead the al Houthi delegation. The UN-sponsored ceasefire is intended to support a new round of peace talks beginning on April 18 in Kuwait. The last UN-brokered ceasefire and peace talks collapsed in January when both sides failed to adhere to confidence-building measures.
- Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al Jubeir praised the results of direct talks between the al Houthis and Saudi Arabia at a press conference on April 4. He confirmed that former president Ali Abdullah Saleh does not have representatives at the talks. Al Jubeir’s remarks echo statements by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who described positive interactions with the al Houthi delegation in an interview last week. Al Jubeir reiterated that the talks aim to reduce violence along the Yemeni-Saudi border. Previous statements by Saudi officials emphasized the negotiations also seek to promote the delivery of humanitarian aid to northern Yemen. Al Jubeir and Prince Salman’s statements confirm that direct talks are ongoing, despite recent coalition airstrikes in northern Yemen and al Houthi-Saleh cross-border attacks.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed a car carrying Mohamed Ali Diheye, a Somali parliamentarian, as he travelled through the El Gaabta junction in the Hamar-Jabjab district of Mogadishu on April 5. The militants blocked the path of Diheye’s car before opening fire on the vehicle, killing two bodyguards and severely wounding Mr. Diheye. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Diheye was one of a number of apostates that the group was seeking to target. Al Shabaab has recently increased targeted attacks against Somali government officials in Mogadishu. 
- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) released a statement claiming that it has killed seven al Shabaab commanders in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia during the past week. AMISOM troops reportedly killed a Yemeni explosives expert known as “Abu Islam” and a Kenyan training instructor named Sheikh Mansur in or around Janale. AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) troops launched an operation to seize Janale from al Shabaab on April 1 but have yet to secure the entire town.
- The al Qaeda affiliate al Muhajiroun in East Africa denounced the Tanzanian jihadist accused of espionage and executed by al Shabaab in Jilib town, Middle Jubba region on April 4. Al Shabaab executed Issa Jemes Mwesiga by firing squad on April 2. The party for whom Mwesiga was spying for has yet to be determined. The statement called the execution “just and proportionate” and extolled praise for al Shabaab’s continued war against the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and AMISOM. Al Muhajiroun in East Africa occasionally supports al Shabaab through digital media and propaganda products.
 “US navy seizes Iranian ship carrying AK-47s bound for Houthis,” Middle East Eye, April 5, 2016, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-navy-seizes-iranian-ship-carrying-1500-ak-47s-bound-houthis-1959851118; and “U.S. Navy says it seized weapons from Iran likely bound for Houthis in Yemen,” Reuters, April 5, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-yemen-arms-idUSKCN0X12DB.
 “Warplanes set al Qaeda compound in Yemen on fire,” Al Arabiya, April 5, 2016, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2016/04/05/Warplanes-set-al-Qaeda-compound-in-southern-Yemen-on-fire.html; “Planes strike militant positions north of al Hawta in Lahij,” Barakish, April 5, 2016, http://barakish.net/news02.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=395265; and “Violent explosions in two bases controlled by al Qaeda in the east of Yemen,” Al Masdar, April 5, 2016, http://almasdaronline.com/article/80840.
 “Yemen panel of advisors arrive in Kuwait to prepare for talks,” Al Arabiya, April 5, 2016, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/04/05/Yemen-panel-of-advisors-arrive-in-Kuwait-to-prepare-for-talks-.html; “Government ceasefire team arrives in Kuwait and meets with Ould Cheikh,” Barakish, April 5, 2016, http://barakish.net/news02.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=395266.
 “‘Positive developments’ in Al Houthi talks - Saudi Arabia,” Gulf News, April 4, 2016, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/positive-developments-in-al-houthi-talks-saudi-arabia-1.1704005; Glen Carey and Deema Almashabi, “ Saudi Prince Sees ‘Significant’ Progress Toward Yemen War End,” Bloomberg, April 3, 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-03/saudi-prince-sees-significant-progress-toward-yemen-war-end-imkk92vu.
 Mohammed Sheikh Nor, “Somali Lawmaker Injured, Guards Killed in Al-Shabaab Shooting,” Bloomberg News, April 5, 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-05/somali-lawmaker-injured-guards-killed-in-al-shabaab-shooting; “MP escapes assassination attempt in Mogadishu attack,” Shabelle News, April 5, 2016, http://shabellenews.com/?p=28864; “Lawmaker injured, bodyguard and driver killed in drive-by shooting in Modagadishu, “ Goobjoog News, April 5, 2016, http://goobjoog.com/english/?p=27382.
 Mohammed Sheikh Nor, “African Union Says 6 Al-Shabaab Commanders Killed in Somalia,” Bloomberg News, April 5, 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-05/african-union-says-six-al-shabaab-commanders-killed-in-somalia; Olga Bogorad, Twitter, April 5, 2016, https://twitter.com/Bogorad_Olga/status/717288304895508481.
 Strategic Analyst, Twitter, April 5, 2016, https://twitter.com/NominalAnalyst/status/717306152313307136.