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: Hadi government and Saudi media accuse Hezbollah of providing training and material support to al Houthi forces; UAE forces reportedly withdraw from Aden’s airport following militant attack; AQAP militants destroy political security office in al Hawta, Lahij; EU parliament calls for arms embargo on Saudi Arabia
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab launches mortar attack on Somali Presidential Palace in Mogadishu; six al Shabaab militants sentenced for assassination of prominent Somali journalist; Somali president claims 180 KDF soldiers killed in el Adde base attack
Yemen Security Brief
- The government of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi accused Lebanese Hezbollah of providing material support to al Houthi forces on February 24, citing documentary and physical evidence. Shortly afterward, Saudi state television released footage from mid-2015 claiming to show a Hezbollah commander training al Houthi fighters to conduct attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh. Hadi’s government plans to submit a formal complaint against Hezbollah to the UN Security Council.
- Local sources reported that Emirati forces withdrew from Aden’s International Airport after an armed group stormed their positions on February 24. President Hadi’s information minister denied the reports, stating that the airport is undergoing maintenance. This attack has not been confirmed. The armed group reportedly comprised several disaffected anti-al Houthi fighters, possibly indicating they are aligned with the Southern secessionist movement. Southern secessionist militants are suspected of carrying out attacks on security forces and critical infrastructure in Aden, despite a loose alliance with Hadi and the coalition against the al Houthis. Officials have closed and reopened Aden’s airport on several occasions since coalition-backed forces retook the city from al Houthi-Saleh forces in mid-2015. Officials attributed the most recent closure, on February 21, to security concerns.
- Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants destroyed a political security office in al Hawta, capital of Lahij governorate, on February 24. The demolition follows the destruction of a civilian’s home and a police headquarters in al Hawta over the past month. AQAP-affiliated militants took control of the city, just 40 kilometers outside of Aden, on January 25.
- The European Union’s parliament called for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia on February 25, in connection with allegations the Saudi-led coalition has caused disproportionate civilian casualties in its campaign in Yemen. The resolution passed by a large margin, with 359 votes in favor and 212 opposed. The measure is non-binding; European governments must choose individually whether to implement its terms. Both sides have been accused of human rights violations in Yemen’s ongoing conflict.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants launched a mortar attack on the Somali Presidential Palace, Villa Somalia, in Mogadishu on February 25. The mortars missed the palace by roughly 300 meters and landed in a residential area, killing four civilians and injuring at least eight others. Al Shabaab claimed credit for the attack.
- A Somali military tribunal sentenced six suspected al Shabaab members for the December 3, 2015 assassination of female Somali journalist Hinda Mohammed. Al Shabaab detonated a car bomb targeting Ms. Mohammed near the KM4 traffic circle in Mogadishu. The tribunal condemned one of the militants, Abdirisack Mohamed Barrow, to death, while his five accomplices received either five year or life sentences.
- Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced that between 180 and 200 soldiers were killed in the January 15 al Shabaab attack on the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) forward operating base at el Adde, Gedo region, Somalia. Al Shabaab took credit for killing 100 KDF soldiers in the attack. The Kenyan Defense Forces have meanwhile refused to release an official count. A KDF spokesperson disputed President Mohamud’s casualty estimates and insinuated that the president had contact with the militant group.
“Lebanon must act on Hezbollah in Yemen, says Saudi,” Al Arabiya, February 24, 2016, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/02/24/Yemeni-govt-says-have-evidence-Hezbollah-is-involved-in-backing-the-Houthis.html.