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: Geneva negotiations stall; ceasefire violated throughout Yemen; VBIED targets security administration building in al Bayda governorate; suspected AQAP militants attack military checkpoint in Hadramawt governorate; southern resistance forces release four journalists
Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants attack civilians and police in Lamu County, Kenya; Somali officials announce plans to raid al Shabaab hideouts in southern and central Somalia; Kenyan officials announce indefinite extension of operation “Linda Boni” in eastern Kenyan and southern Somalia; Turkish authorities warn of possible attacks by al Shabaab-trained militants within Turkey
Yemen Security Brief
- UN-led negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland stalled on December 17 after the al Houthis refused to release several high-ranking political prisoners. The al Houthis said that they will free the detained officials, who include the Minister of Defense and the brother of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after the delegates agree on a permanent ceasefire. The negotiations are currently in the confidence-building stage, which requires observance of the truce, the release of political prisoners by the al Houthis, and the distribution of international aid in Taiz city.
- Popular resistance and al Houthi-Saleh forces clashed throughout Yemen on December 17, violating the ceasefire agreement. Fighting occurred in Ma’rib governorate in central Yemen, as well as al Jawf governorate in northern Yemen. Saudi-led coalition forces conducted airstrikes in Hajjah governorate in northern Yemen, in retaliation for al Houthi-Saleh cross-border shelling on December 16.
- Unidentified militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at a security building in al Bayda governorate in central Yemen on December 17. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Ansar al Sharia, the militant arm of al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), frequently targets al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda.
- Suspected AQAP militants unsuccessfully attacked a military checkpoint outside the town of Bin Eifan in eastern Yemen’s Hadramawt governorate on December 17. AQAP controls swaths of territory in Hadramawt governorate, including the region’s capital and key port, al Mukalla.
- Southern Resistance forces released four journalists on December 16 following their arrest the previous day in Aden governorate’s al Mualla district in southern Yemen. The journalists, who are linked to Yemeni Islamist party al Islah, were fleeing al Houthi forces in the north and did not carry proper documentation, according to officials.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Suspected al Shabaab militants attacked a civilian vehicle and clashed with police on December 16 in Mpektoni, Lamu County, Kenya. The militants attacked a civilian lorry in Mpektoni, injuring the driver and burning the vehicle. The militants then attacked a responding police vehicle, forcing the driver to flee before the attackers took control of the vehicle and fled the scene. Reported casualties ranged from a single wounded civilian to four deaths, including police personnel. Kenyan authorities have yet to release casualty figures. Al Shabaab claimed credit for the attack.
- Somali officials announced on December 17 that Somali National Army (SNA) forces will renew operations targeting al Shabaab’s hideouts in southern and central Somalia. Somalia’s Interior Minister said that a special contingent comprised of SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces has been assembled for the operations, which will begin before the end of the year.
- Kenyan officials announced on December 17 the indefinite extension of operation “Linda Boni” in Kenya’s southern Lamu County. The operation, which began on September 6 of this year, is meant to clear Jaysh Ayman, a militant cell with links to al Shabaab, from Kenya’s Boni forest area. A recent increase in attacks by militants within Kenya’s borders prompted the extension. Additionally, a Kenyan intelligence report recently claimed that Jaysh Ayman is currently operating under the command of Mohamed Kuno “Gamadhere,” a pro-ISIS al Shabaab commander who reportedly split off from the core group and may lead militant operations against Kenya.
- Turkish authorities issued a warning on December 16 to police throughout all provinces of possible attacks by al Shabaab-trained militants. The statement warned of three al Shabaab members trying to conduct attacks against Turkey. One is reportedly inside Turkey while the others are attempting to enter the country. The militants were trained by al Shabaab and at least one is trained to assemble and handle explosives. Al Shabaab has issued threats against Turkey in the past and killed Turkish citizens in a number of attacks in Mogadishu this year.