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: Coalition warships and aircraft approach AQAP-controlled al Mukalla, Hadramawt; reported airstrike kills two AQAP militants in Sayun, Hadramawt; Chinese President Xi Jinping affirms support for Hadi government; Oman closes Yemen border crossings; Vice President Bahah calls for “Marshall Plan” in Yemen; al Houthi cleric issues fatwa against President Hadi
Horn of Africa: Kenyan President Kenyatta reaffirms commitment to AMISOM; Nairobi businessman arrested for alleged support for al Shabaab; Somali defense minister meets with EU General
Yemen Security Brief
- Coalition warships reportedly ordered unregistered vessels to leave al Mukalla port in Hadramawt governorate on January 19. The coalition also deployed helicopters to the area. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has controlled al Mukalla since April 2015 and likely uses the port for smuggling operations. Sources reported that AQAP is on high alert and has deployed militants to main streets and checkpoints throughout the city. The Saudi-led coalition has yet to contest AQAP’s hold on al Mukalla.
- A U.S. airstrike killed two suspected AQAP militants near Sayun in Wadi Hadramawt on January 19. This is the third strike on AQAP militants this week, following a strike in Jaar, Abyan on January 17 and a strike in Shabwah governorate on January 16.
- China’s President Xi Jinping voiced support for a unified Yemen in a statement following his meeting with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on January 19. The statement affirmed China and Saudi Arabia’s support for a unified, sovereign Yemeni government under President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. President Xi is expected to visit Egypt and Iran later this week.
- Oman has closed its borders with Yemen, according to Yemeni security officials. The two border crossings closed earlier this month due to fears of militant activity. The closures coincide with an uptick in AQAP movements and attacks over the past weeks. Oman is the only Gulf Cooperation Council member that did not join the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen’s al Houthi rebels. The country supports a diplomatic solution to the Yemeni crisis and has served as a neutral third party in peace negotiations.
- Yemeni Vice President Khaled Bahah called for the Arab League and the GCC to fund a “Marshall Plan” to rebuild Yemen in a speech in the United Arab Emirates on January 19. Vice President Bahah also accused the al Houthis and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh of manipulating Yemen’s financial system to fund the war. Bahah’s speech was notably bellicose. He accused the al Houthis and Saleh of obstructing the peace process, and alleged that al Houthi militias are worse the al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). Bahah also claimed that the coalition has liberated 80 percent of Yemen.
- An al Houthi cleric issued a fatwa condemning President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The cleric also praised Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta reaffirmed his county’s commitment to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in a televised address on January 19. This announcement comes after last week’s al Shabaab attack on a Kenyan AMISOM base in Somalia’s Gedo region. Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) officials confirmed that roughly half of the 240 troops stationed at the base were still unaccounted for as of January 20, with an estimated 67 killed and at least two captured by the militants.
- A Kenyan businessman was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya for allegedly supporting al Shabaab. The Kenyan Anti-terrorism Police arrested Abdisalam Afif Shueb, director of the Kabgal Foundation, after evidence surfaced connecting Mr. Shueb with the funding of a terror cell in Mandera County, Kenya. An anti-terror police spokesperson told a judge that the Kabgal Foundation received donations from individuals connected to al Shabaab and used the funds to recruit and send young people to train with the group.
- Somali Defense Minister Abdikadir Sheikh Ali Diini met with the director of the European Union (EU) military training program for Somalia, General Antonio Maggi, in Mogadishu on January 20. They discussed EU training and capacity building assistance for the Somali National Army in 2016, as well as EU plans to provide more support to Somalia’s armed forces.
Ahmed Al-Haj, “Suicide Bomber Targets Police Chief in Yemen’s Aden, Kills 7,” AP, January 17, 2016, http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/senior-security-officials-assassinated-yemen-36343006.
Giorgio Cafiero, “Can Oman help the Saudis save face in Yemen?” Al Monitor, December 27, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/12/oman-yemen-saudi-isis-gcc-arms.html.