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: AQAP seizes al Raydah in Hadramawt governorate; coalition spokesman confirms ongoing border ceasefire and joint demining operations; pro-Hadi military forces attack Ansar al Sharia position near al Anad airbase in Lahij governorate; al Houthi sources claim that coalition airstrikes hit market in Hajjah governorate; al Houthis sending students to Tehran for military and religious study
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants raid seaside town in Puntland, Somalia; al Shabaab kidnaps three Red Crescent Society aid workers; Somali security forces conduct clearing operations in Bardaale, Bay region, Somalia
Yemen Security Brief
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants took control of the city of al Raydah in eastern Hadramawt governorate on March 13. Militants seized government buildings and faced no resistance due to the lack of state institutions in the city, according to local sources. Al Raydah, a small town on Yemen’s southern coastal road, lies east of AQAP’s stronghold of al Mukalla, which the group has occupied since April 2015.
- Saudi-led coalition spokesman General Ahmed al Asiri confirmed on March 15 that the unofficial cessation of hostilities along the Yemeni-Saudi border continues to hold. He also confirmed reports of a joint al Houthi-Saudi team carrying out mine clearing operations in Sa’ada governorate. The unofficial border ceasefire has held with few interruptions for about two weeks as al Houthi and Saudi officials hold talks in Saudi Arabia. Asiri also praised recent advances in Taiz city, where coalition-backed forces broke a months-long siege on March 11.
- Yemeni military forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi raided a gathering of fighters from AQAP’s insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, in al Zaydah, Lahij governorate on March 14. A pro-Hadi military spokesman stated that the Ansar al Sharia militants were preparing for an attack on al Anad airbase in Lahij, which is held by pro-Hadi and coalition forces. Al Zaydah is located between al Anad and Lahij’s regional capital, al Hawta, which is controlled by AQAP-linked militants.
- Pro-al Houthi sources claimed that two coalition airstrikes hit a market in Mustaba’ district in northwestern Hajjah governorate on March 15. Reports claimed that the attack killed and wounded at least 30. The source of the bombings is not confirmed, and neither the Saudi-led coalition nor al Houthi officials have commented on the reports. Mustaba’ district is located south of the Saudi-Yemeni border region, where airstrikes and clashes have slowed during this week’s unofficial ceasefire.
- Al Houthi authorities are reportedly sending students from al Hudaydah and Hajjah governorates to Iran for military and Shi’a religious studies. Reports indicate the students are traveling to Tehran by way of Jordan. Iran has previously hosted al Houthi representatives and notably provided medical treatment and burials for four al Houthis wounded in the March 2015 bombings in Sana’a.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants raided the seaside town of Gara’ad in the autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia late on March 14 after skirmishing with a local militia. Residents reported that roughly 150-200 militants, including foreign fighters, approached the town after landing in five boats nearby. The militants reportedly withdrew from Gara’ad by the morning of March 15 and seized Kulub village, approximately 11 kilometers to the north. Puntland Security Forces regained control of Gara’ad. Al Shabaab has a limited presence in Puntland. A cell of former al Shabaab militants who reportedly defected to ISIS in October 2015 may operate in the area.
- Al Shabaab militants kidnapped three Red Crescent Society (RCS) aid workers near Siidamo in southern Somalia’s Gedo region on March 15. The RCS personnel, including the director and deputy director of health operations in the Gedo region, were travelling by car from Siidamo to Elwaq near the Kenya-Somalia border when they were stopped and detained by militants. Al Shabaab has not released a statement on the abduction.
- Somali security forces conducted a clearing operation in Bardaale village in Somalia’s Bay region on March 15. A government spokesperson claimed that the operation sought to disrupt al Shabaab cells potentially operating in the area. The operation’s results are unknown.