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: Attack on Doctors Without Borders hospital in Sa’ada; AQAP chief bombmaker eulogizes prisoners executed in Saudi Arabia; ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan claims assassination of security official in Aden; peace talks delayed; President Hadi reverses expulsion of UN human rights representative
Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants conduct car bombings targeting government officials in Mogadishu, Banadir region; IED detonates near Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region; UK military officials meet with Somali and Kenyan officials to discuss emerging ISIS threats; Kenyan police clear arms cache in Wajir County, Kenya
Yemen Security Brief
- A “projectile” hit a hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Razeh district of Sa’ada governorate in northern Yemen on January 10. MSF stated that it is not certain who launched the attack, which killed four and injured ten, including three MSF staff. The group confirmed that it regularly informs all parties of the location of its facilities. Pro-al Houthi sources claimed that the Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on a hospital in al Bayda governorate in central Yemen on January 11. The coalition-backed government in Aden indicated that the facility was being used as an al Houthi base. MSF facilities in Sa’ada suffered an attack in October 2015.
- Ibrahim al Asiri, chief bombmaker for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), eulogized Sunni prisoners recently executed by Saudi Arabia in an audio statement released by AQAP on January 10. Al Asiri praised the prisoners, condemned Saudi Arabia, and threatened the United States. The statement is al Asiri’s first speaking role in an AQAP video. Al Asiri designed the 2009 underwear bomb and the 2010 printer cartridge bombs that targeted U.S.-bound airplanes.
- The Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan, claimed credit on January 9 for the assassination of Colonel Ali Saleh al Yafie, a senior Yemeni security official, in the Mansoura neighborhood of Aden. The report has not been independently verified. Aden has witnessed a series of assassinations since coalition-backed forces recaptured the city in July and August 2015, including an attempt on the governors of Aden and Lahij on January 5. The assassinations have undermined the Hadi government’s efforts to restore security in the city.
- UN-led peace talks scheduled for January 14 will likely be postponed. President Hadi’s Foreign Minister, Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, announced that the al Houthis had rejected the proposed January 14 start date. Al Mikhlafi suggested the talks might occur on January 20 or 23 in Geneva. The prior round of talks took place in mid-December and failed to establish a sustainable ceasefire.
- Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi withdrew the expulsion of a UN OCHCR representative on January 8 under international pressure. President Hadi had declared the representative a persona non grata on January 7 following a UN statement on the possible use of cluster munitions by the Saudi-led coalition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon urged President Hadi’s government in Aden to reconsider its decision.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Suspected al Shabaab militants conducted multiple car bomb attacks targeting government officials in Mogadishu, Banadir region. A car bomb targeting Khada district’s secretary detonated on January 8 but caused no casualties. Two other car bomb attacks took place on January 10. The first attack targeted an Aden Adde International Airport official, wounding the target. The second attack killed two unspecified government officials and wounded two other people in Mogadishu’s southeastern Shibis district. Banadir region officials announced an increased security presence in response to the string of attempted assassinations. No group claimed credit for the attack, although the targets and tactics suggest al Shabaab.
- Militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) on January 11 in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region. The blast killed at least two people, including a local businessman, and wounded two others. The attack took place a day after a Somali National Army (SNA) soldier killed a civilian in the same town for unspecified reasons, although it is unclear if the two events are related. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- UK military officials met with Somalia’s defense minister, as well as Kenyan diplomats, on January 9 to discuss the country’s counter-terror efforts. The delegations discussed the emerging threat of pro-Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militant cells in East Africa. The UK’s delegation pledged to increase its support in combating the emerging pro-ISIS threat in the region.
- Forces from Kenyan’s Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) cleared an arms cache on January 11 in Wajir, Wajir County, Kenya. The ATPU forces raided a suspected al Shabaab safe house and recovered two assault rifles, two pistols, two grenades, two detonators for IEDs, as well as ammunition for the firearms.