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: AQAP leader Qasim al Raymi describes United States as primary enemy in new video; al Houthi leader called for supporters to resist; divisions emerging within ISIS in Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh and coalition-backed forces continue to fight for control in Yemen
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants attack pro-ISIS group in Bari region, Puntland; al Shabaab executes two people publicly; al Shabaab claims series of attacks in Mandera, Kenya; kidnapped Somali aid workers freed; Somali federal government bans Christmas, New Year’s celebrations
Yemen Security Brief
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Qasim al Raymi spoke on the importance of jihad against the United States as the “primary” enemy because of its support for groups fighting jihadists around the world. Raymi also made reference to the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), critiquing those who seek to establish an Islamic nation before shari’a is fully implemented and while still living within a “land of war” (dar al harb). This is Raymi’s first video statement since he succeeded Nasser al Wahayshi as leader of AQAP.
- Al Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi called on his supporters to resist “until our people achieve their freedom and independence” in a December 23 speech. Abdul Malik belittled the UN’s potential role in resolving the Yemen conflict, noting that the UN followed American policy, which is to back the Saudi-led coalition. He also accused the West and the Gulf Cooperation Council of sending Blackwater, now operating under the name of Academi, into Yemen. There have been reports that Academi consultants are working with Emirati troops in Yemen.
- The Long War Journal reported a split among ISIS members in Yemen. A letter entitled, “A Statement of Defection from the Wali of Yemen,” published online on December 15 laid out reasons for the defection of 70 members of ISIS in Yemen, including three members of ISIS’s shari’a committee, Sheikh Abu Hajar al Adani, Sheikh Abu al Shayma al Muhajir, and Sheikh Abu Muslim al Mansour, as well as a military leader, Abu Assim al Bika, and chief of general security, Sadiq. The group petitioned ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi to dismiss the governor (wali) in Yemen. A member of ISIS’s shura council, Abu Ubaydah Abd al Hakim, issued a response dismissing their objections on December 19.
- Al Houthi-Saleh and coalition-backed forces continue to contest terrain in Yemen. Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired ballistic missiles at coalition bases in Ma’rib and Lahij governorates. SABA News Agency reported a Tochka (SS-21) rocket hit al Anad base on December 24 in Lahij. Separately, Saudi Arabia reported it had intercepted a Scud missile on December 26 fired at Najran city. SABA News Agency reported that the Yemeni army fired a Qahir-I ballistic missile at a Saudi National Guard camp in al Arisah in Najran on December 27. Furthermore, intense fighting in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, killed over 30 people by December 26.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants attacked a group of pro-ISIS militants near Timershe village, about 150 kilometers south of Boosaaso port city in Puntland on December 24. The pro-ISIS militants had defected from al Shabaab in October 2015 along with religious leader Abdul Qadir Mumin. Garowe Online reported that the group was expecting support from ISIS in Yemen due to increasing pressure from al Shabaab on the defectors.
- Al Shabaab publicly executed by firing squad a Somali military officer, Abdul Fattah Ibrahim, and Osman Moalim Ahmed (Uthman Ma’ani), either a local administrator of Mareere town or the district governor, in Bariirey town, about 50 kilometers south of Mogadishu, on December 24. Al Shabaab military spokesman Abdi Aziz Abu Mus’ab said the executions were in accordance with shari’a. The group seized the town two months ago.
- Al Shabaab ambushed a Kenyan security vehicle in Elwak in Mandera on December 27, killing at least two Kenyan police officers. Al Shabaab claimed it killed four officers in the attack. An al Shabaab militant was killed and three others injured when a bomb they were planting along the road in the area detonated prematurely. Two days earlier, militants attacked two Kenyan police convoys in northern Kenya, killing at least one police officer. Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for these attacks.
- Al Shabaab kidnapped two Somali aid workers and their driver near Tubako in the suburbs of Bardhere in Gedo region on December 27. The militants took their captives to Elbeta village, an al Shabaab-held area in Gedo. A local official reported that following mediation by local elders, all three individuals had been freed.
- The Somali federal government (SFG) banned Christmas and New Year’s festivities due to the threat from al Shabaab. Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, a member of the Supreme Religious Council of Somalia, noted that the non-Muslim celebrations may provoke an al Shabaab attack.