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: Pro-Hadi security forces clash with suspected AQAP militants in al Mansoura district, Aden; rival AQAP factions clash over leadership succession in Zinjibar, Abyan; Saudi-led coalition spokesman briefs U.S. policy experts on campaign in Yemen
Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab land mine targets Jubbaland police in Kismayo, Somalia; KDF warplanes attack al Shabaab positions near Berhani, Somalia; Kenyan police reservists demand better weapons to fight al Shabaab in Lamu County, Kenya
Yemen Security Brief
- Security forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi clashed with suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Aden’s al Mansoura district on February 9. The Saudi-led coalition provided air support. The pro-Hadi forces killed at least two militants, and a rocket fired by ground forces during the clash killed a family of four. Aden police stated that the clashes arose during a clearing operation, while military sources said that militants sparked the fighting while attempting to retake a container terminal and part of Aden’s free trade zone. Militants affiliated both with AQAP and with the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) are active in Aden.
- Rival AQAP factions clashed over leadership succession in Zinjibar, Abyan governorate on February 8 following the death of Jalal al Bal’idi al Marqishi, AQAP’s top commander in Abyan, who was killed by a reported U.S. airstrike on February 4. Some reports identify al Marqishi’s successor as a local commander known as Abu Anas al San’ani. Others indicate that al Marqishi’s brother, identified as Ossan al Bal’idi or Tawfiq al Bal’idi, will assume the role. The split appears tribal in nature, with a faction of militants rejecting Abu Anas al San’ani on the grounds that he does not belong to one of Abyan’s tribes. Al Marqishi belonged to a prominent Abyani tribe and used this connection to build AQAP’s legitimacy in the region.
- Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al Asiri briefed U.S. policy experts and others via videoconference at the Center for a New American Security on February 8. Asiri compared the conflict in Yemen to those in Libya and Somalia and emphasized the need for foreign intervention. He also connected the threat from AQAP to the threat from the al Houthis and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and claimed that the coalition’s campaign against al Houthi-Saleh forces will ultimately weaken AQAP. General Asiri’s briefing was the first the coalition has provided to a non-official audience in the U.S.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A suspected al Shabaab land mine targeted a Jubbaland police vehicle in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region, Somalia on February 9, reportedly killing several officers. Interim Jubbaland Administration forces are searching for the perpetrators.
- Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) fighter jets targeted al Shabaab positions near the town of Berhani, located approximately 60 kilometers from Kismayo in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region, on February 9. A Somali army officer stationed in Kismayo reported that the airstrikes killed three civilians and multiple animals, but missed the militants. Somali officials and civilians have condemned recent KDF airstrikes as indiscriminate and damaging, exacerbating tensions between the two countries. It is unknown whether these strikes are connected to the recently launched Operation Jubba Corridor, a joint African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) clearing operation targeting al Shabaab in the Jubba River region.
- Kenyan police reservists in Lamu County demanded modern weapons with which to defend their villages from al Shabaab attacks, arguing that they deserve better as the first line of defense against the militant group. Sixty police reservists in Lamu County quit due to inadequate equipment and pay in 2015. Al Shabaab attacks have increased in Lamu County in the past year as Kenyan security forces target militants in the nearby Boni Nature Preserve.