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: al Houthi figures and Saudi foreign minister speak against Iranian intervention in Yemen; Saleh’s GPC declares support for direct talks with Saudi Arabia; al Houthi forces breach unofficial border truce as coalition airstrikes resume on Sana’a; pro-Saleh troops rumored to defect to pro-Hadi Yemeni Army; local militia clashes with palace guard in Aden
Horn of Africa: SNA troops clash with al Shabaab militants outside Mahaday, Middle Shabelle region; suspected al Shabaab militants detonate IED at police station in Bardhere, Gedo region; Somali police arrest four connected to March 9 IED attack in Baidoa; Kenyan troops deploy to Somalia’s Lower Jubba region
Yemen Security Brief
- A prominent official in the al Houthi Ansar Allah party, Abu Malik Yusuf al Fishi, called on Iran to not exploit the issue of Yemen on March 9. An al Houthi activist similarly urged Iran not to overstate its support for the Yemeni people, though he also thanked Tehran for its public support of the al Houthis. These comments are in response to an Iranian military official’s March 8 statement that Iran could provide the al Houthis with military advisers and other support. The al Houthis, who recently commenced the first round of direct talks with the Saudi-led coalition, are not Iranian proxies but have received military and other support from Tehran throughout the conflict. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir praised the al Houthis’ pushback against Iranian intervention and reiterated the Kingdom’s commitment to a political solution in Yemen on March 9. Al Jubeir also expressed willingness to improve relations with Iran, should Tehran set aside its “aggressive” policies and agree not to interfere in other states in the region. The foreign minister’s remarks come amid rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the exchange of pointed rhetoric between the two regional powers.
- Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party announced its support for ongoing talks between Saudi Arabia and the al Houthis on March 9. The talks reportedly began on March 7 in Saudi Arabia and are the first direct negotiations between the parties. The GPC’s statement welcomed any steps toward resolving the conflict and highlighted Saleh’s earlier calls for direct talks, which Saudi Arabia previously refused. Neither Saleh nor the GPC are believed to be participating in the negotiations.
- Al Houthi forces reportedly broke a weeklong unofficial ceasefire along the Yemeni-Saudi border on March 10. A rocket fired from within Yemen reportedly killed a Saudi civilian and wounded three others in al Tuwal village in southern Saudi Arabia’s Jazan province. Coalition airstrikes also resumed on Sana’a after a period of relative quiet, targeting the al Hafa military base south of the capital. The Saudi-led coalition and the al Houthis conducted several apparent confidence-building measures, including the unofficial cessation of hostilities and a prisoner exchange, in support of ongoing negotiations in Saudi Arabia. The coalition said the temporary ceasefire was intended to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries.
- Pro-Saudi media claimed that more than 3,000 Republican Guard troops loyal to former president Saleh have defected to the Fourth Military District, loyal to President Hadi. The officers and soldiers are reportedly preparing to fight al Houthi forces alongside pro-Hadi forces in Taiz. The claim follows the reported defection of 50 Republican Guard troops northeast of Sana’a last month and rumors of friction between al Houthi and pro-Saleh forces in other parts of the country.
- Local militiamen clashed with security forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi outside the presidential palace in Aden on March 9. The clashes reportedly broke out over the death of militia fighters from wounds sustained from a recent suicide attack carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). The fighters blamed the Hadi government for failing to transport their wounded outside the country for medical treatment.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Somali National Army (SNA) troops engaged al Shabaab militants during a clearing operation on March 10 near Meertuugo village outside the town of Mahaday in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region. An SNA spokesperson claimed that the militants sustained heavy losses and that only one SNA soldier was killed. The SNA controls Meertuugo.
- Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) at a police station in Bardere town in southern Somalia’s Gedo region on March 10. The blast, which supposedly targeted Bardhere’s senior police official, wounded at least one police officer. Investigators are questioning several suspects, including a Somali police officer, who were arrested in connection with the attack.
- Somali police forces in Baidoa, Bay region arrested four people suspected of planning a March 9 IED attack on an SNA convoy outside of the city. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed one SNA soldier and critically wounded two others. Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops are questioning the suspects. Al Shabaab also conducted a dual suicide bombing targeting government officials in Baidoa on February 28.
- Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) troops reportedly crossed into the Lower Jubba region in southern Somalia on March 10 to reinforce existing KDF units fighting al Shabaab militants in the region. The convoy consisted of trucks and armored vehicles supported by fighter jets and deployed near the villages of Afmadow, Tabta, and Qoqani. It is unclear if the new KDF contingent is operating independently or under the AMISOM mandate.