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: UN Special Envoy for Yemen postpones trip to Sana’a; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in southern Abyan governorate; AQAP militants attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in southern al Bayda governorate
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants ambush SNA convoy in Bakool region; al Shabaab militants ambush two AMISOM convoys in Middle Shabelle region; African Union official meets with Burundian government
Yemen Security Brief
- UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed postponed a planned visit to Sana’a city on January 19. Ould Cheikh Ahmed intended to meet with representatives from the al Houthi Movement and the General People’s Congress (GPC) party, led by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, to discuss ceasefire terms. Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi regarding the ceasefire in Aden city on January 18. Ould Cheikh Ahmed postponed the visit after al Houthi representatives attempted to replace the planned meeting with a meeting between Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the al Houthi-Saleh foreign minister. The al Houthi-Saleh faction also attempted to add the return of air traffic to Sana’a’s airport as a condition for negotiations. The al Houthi-Saleh foreign minister met with Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s chief advisor, Nicole Davis, in his stead.
- Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces are struggling to counter al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Abyan governorate. AQAP militants attacked an al Hizam base in Shaqra area, southern Abyan governorate with Grad rockets and infantry on January 19. AQAP militants killed at least one al Hizam soldier in the attack. AQAP militants reportedly deployed to al Khanfir district, north of Shaqra town in southern Abyan, on January 19. AQAP militants ambushed and stole a supply truck in Lawder district, northern Abyan on January 18. The truck was en route to resupply al Hizam forces in Abyan, where inadequate resources are hindering al Hizam’s operations. Al Hizam forces withdrew from several checkpoints in central Abyan governorate on January 19, citing a lack of resources necessary to defend against AQAP attacks. An al Hizam commander in Lawder district reportedly mortgaged his home in order to pay for supplies for his troops. Al Hizam officers called for the head of al Hizam forces in Abyan to be relieved of his command on January 18 in response to the deteriorating security situation.
- AQAP militants fired Grad rockets at al Houthi-Saleh forces in Dhi Na'im district, southern al Bayda governorate, at night on January 19.Al Houthi-Saleh forces clashed with reported popular resistance militiamen in Dhi Na’im on January 18. AQAP frequently fights al Houthi-Saleh forces alongside local tribal militias in Ibb and al Bayda governorates.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Somali National Army (SNA) convoy in Marerey Forest in Bakool region on January 19. The militants killed several SNA soldiers in the attack. Al Shabaab has increased its presence in Bakool region since Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces began to withdraw from the area in October 2016.
- Al Shabaab militants claimed two attacks on AMISOM forces in Middle Shabelle region on January 18. Militants ambushed a convoy of AMISOM troops in a village outside of Jowhar, killing several soldiers. Militants also targeted Burundian AMISOM troops outside El Baraf town. Al Shabaab conducted several attacks on AMISOM convoys outside of Mahaday and Jowhar towns in Middle Shabelle region in January 2017.
- African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui traveled to Burundi to meet with Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza and discuss Burundi’s threat to withdraw its forces from the AMISOM coalition. The Burundian government informed the African Union of its intention to begin withdrawing forces from Somalia immediately due to unpaid salaries. The European Union is attempting to bypass the sanctioned Burundian government to pay Burundian AMISOM soldiers directly. Burundi currently deploys 5,500 troops in Somalia.
 “Ould Cheikh Ahmed postpones visit to Houthis in Sana’a,” Barakish, January 19, 2017, http://barakish.net/news02.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=455058, “The Houthis are demanding that Ould Cheikh meet with Foreign Minister in the government,” al Masdar Online, January 19, 2017, http://www.almasdaronline.com/article/88159, “Foreign Minister: We have asked the UN Representative Ould Cheikh to Visit to the Capital Sana’a,” Sabanews, January 18, 2017, http://www.sabanews.net/ar/news453437.htm, and “Foreign Minister meets with advisors to Secretary-General of the United Nations’ Special Adviser to Yemen,” Sabanews, January 18, 2017, http://www.sabanews.net/ar/news453384.htm.
 AQAP claims complex attack on Shaqra coastal base, southern Abyan, Telegram, January 19, 2017; AQAP claims its militants stole an al Hizam supply truck in northern Abyan, Telegram, January 19, 2017; “Dead and wounded troops from al Hizam security forces after an armed attack on a coast guard base in Shaqra,” Aden Lang, January 19, 2017, http://adnlng.com/news/60364/; “Brigadier General Abdullah al Fadhli removed from the leadership of al Hizam security in Abyan,” Aden Lang, January 18, 2017, http://adnlng.com/news/60331/; “The commander of the al Hizam security forces in Lawder (Aden Tomorrow)...I mortgaged my house to obtain munitions to restore checkpoints,” Aden Tomorrow, January 19, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/241057/#.WIDeRlUrLIU; “Abyan: withdrawal of the al Hizam security forces and the movements of al Qaeda in the coastline,” Aden Lang, January 19, 2017,http://adnlng.com/news/60372/; and “Witnesses: Al Qaeda mobilized its members in the coastal countryside, eastern Abyan,” Aden Tomorrow, January 19, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/241037/#.WIDfW1UrLIU.
 AQAP claims its militants launched Grad rockets targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in Dhi Na’im, al Bayda governorate, Telegram, January 19, 2017; “The deaths of dozens of mercenaries breaking an advance on Dhi Na’im, al Bayda governorate,” al Masirah, January 18, 2017, http://www.almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=2722&cat_id=3.
 “Several soldiers killed in attack on SNA convoy,” Shabelle News, January 19, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/01/several-soldiers-killed-in-attack-on-sna-convoy/; and “Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals,” Critical Threats Project, November 4, 2016, http://www.criticalthreats.org/somalia/lahiff-ethiopian-amisom-withdrawals-november-4-2016.
 Al Shabaab militants claim two attacks in Middle Shabelle region, January 19, 2017, Telegram.
 “Senior AU official begins visit in Burundi,” Shabelle News, January 19, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/01/senior-au-official-begins-visit-in-burundi/.