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-backed forces break siege in western Taiz city; Emirati warplane crashes near Aden; U.S. Secretary of State voices support for Yemen ceasefire; pro-Hadi and coalition forces clash with suspected AQAP militants in al Mansoura, Aden; al Houthi-Saudi team clears mines along Yemeni-Saudi border; al Houthi official confirms direct talks with Saudi Arabia
Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants launch grenades at qat market in Qoryooley, Lower Shabelle region, Somalia; suspected al Shabaab landmine targets Somali troops in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle; SNA and AMISOM troops conduct clearing operations across Lower Shabelle region; KDF warplanes conduct airstrike against al Shabaab fighters in Gedo region, Somalia; Kenyan government to deploy anti-al Shabaab taskforce to Lamu County for Easter holiday
Yemen Security Brief
- Pro-Hadi and allied forces captured large swathes of territory in western and central Taiz city on March 11 and have successfully repelled counterattacks by al Houthi forces and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to official reports. The offensive on March 11 broke a months-long siege by al Houthi-Saleh forces and opened Taiz’s western road to deliveries of aid from Saudi and international aid organizations. Fighting continues in northern and eastern Taiz city. Saudi-led coalition spokesman General Ahmed al Asiri declared the city’s interior liberated on March 12, while Taiz mayor Ali al Muammari reported that pro-Hadi military forces were taking over control of key buildings from local militia forces.
- An Emirati fighter jet crashed in a mountainous region near Aden on March 14, killing both of its pilots. Coalition authorities attributed the crash to a technical issue. The UAE is an active partner in the coalition campaign against the al Houthi-Saleh alliance, launched in March 2015. The coalition lost a Moroccan aircraft over Yemen in May 2015 and a Bahraini jet near the Saudi-Yemeni border in December 2015.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed support for a ceasefire in Yemen during a March 12 meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir. Kerry referred to the ongoing ceasefire in Syria as a potential model for a Yemen. This statement comes amid reports of direct negotiations between al Houthi and Saudi officials and an unofficial humanitarian ceasefire along the Saudi-Yemeni border.
- Saudi-led coalition forces and security forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi launched an operation to clear militants from al Mansoura district, Aden on March 12. Pro-Hadi security forces established new checkpoints around the district and coalition helicopters dropped leaflets throughout the area, warning residents to remain in their homes and to report any militant activity. Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants spread through the streets and fired on a coalition Apache helicopter. Coalition helicopters then conducted airstrikes on militant vehicles and an occupied government office. The ensuing clashes reportedly killed at least 17 militants and one civilian and wounded at least 26 people in total, including three security personnel. Aden’s governor, Aydarus al Zubaidi, stated that the operation was the second stage of an effort to secure Yemen’s temporary capital.
- A joint al Houthi-Saudi team began a mine-clearing operation in parts of Shada district in northern Sa’ada governorate on March 12. Sources report that Saudi military experts agreed to an al Houthi request to help remove the mines from the border area, amid reports of an unofficial ceasefire along the Saudi-Yemeni border and aid deliveries facilitated by Saudi officials.
- The head of the al Houthi political council, Saleh al Samad, confirmed that direct talks between al Houthi and Saudi officials are ongoing. Al Samad indicated the talks are focused on prisoner exchanges but acknowledged that they could lead to a broader ceasefire, emphasizing that there is nothing preventing a cessation of hostilities with Saudi Arabia. Al Samad denounced former president Saleh for his role in the conflict and criticized “regional powers,” possibly Iran and Oman, for benefitting from the protraction of the conflict rather than intervening to help the Yemeni people.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Suspected al Shabaab militants conducted a grenade attack on a qat market in Qoryooley in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region late on March 13. The explosions killed at least one person and injured between five and eight others. Al Shabaab did not claim responsibility for the attack. Somali Federal Government (SFG) security forces arrested several suspects shortly after the attack.
- Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated a landmine in a market in the town of Afgoi in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on March 13, wounding at least eight people, including four Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers collecting a tax from local merchants. No group has claimed responsibility. Somali security forces reportedly fired their weapons indiscriminately into the crowd who gathered at the scene.
- SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops arrested approximately 30 suspected al Shabaab operatives during clearing operations in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia on March 13. The Somali government initiated the operations, which were conducted in Marka, Barawe and Afgoi towns, after al Shabaab militants carried out attacks in Qoryooley and Afgoi earlier on March 13. These town are located on the main ground line of communication (GLOC) between Mogadishu and the major port city of Kismayo in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region, which was an al Shabaab stronghold between 2008 and 2012.
- The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) launched an airstrike against al Shabaab militants near Garbaharey town in Somalia’s Gedo region on March 12. The strike, which was conducted in the Rays-Qode area of Garbaharey, killed at least two fighters and wounded two civilians.
- The Kenyan government will deploy a 700-man mixed agency security force to Lamu County in northeastern Kenya during the upcoming Easter holiday. The force is comprised of KDF, Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), and local law enforcement personnel. The taskforce will conduct anti-al Shabaab patrols. Al Shabaab executed three Christian civilians in Lamu County in late January.
“Yemeni pro-Hadi forces gain more power in Taiz,” Al Arabiya, March 13, 2016, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/03/13/Yemeni-pro-Hadi-forces-gain-more-power-in-Taiz-.html.
“Militant, police clash in Yemen's Aden leaves 14 dead,” Middle East Eye, March 12, 2016, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/militant-police-clash-yemens-aden-leaves-14-dead-1683277047.
Mohammed Mukhashaf, “Helicopters kill 17 as Yemen government moves against Aden militants,” Reuters, March 13, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-idUSKCN0WF08S.