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 spokesman announces final stages of major combat operations; al Houthi forces fire on Saudi town of al Tuwal; coalition warplanes strike military base outside Sana’a; coalition helicopters reportedly target AQAP convoy in Abyan; three militants prematurely detonate suicide bomb in Aden; UN Secretary General condemns March 15 airstrike on Hajjah market
Horn of Africa: Suspected ISIS militant claims northern Somali tribes pledge to ISIS; Al Shabaab claims responsibility for March 15 attacks in Jubbaland; suspected al Shabaab militants target SNA checkpoint in Mogadishu with grenade; Puntland Defense Forces clash with al Shabaab militants in Suuj, Bari region
Yemen Security Brief
- Saudi-led coalition spokesman General Ahmed al Asiri announced on March 16 that the coalition is in the final stages of its major combat phase in Yemen. The general said that subsequent phases will focus on stabilization and reconstruction. He warned against a premature withdrawal, citing Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya as cautionary tales. Asiri affirmed that the coalition would continue to support ground troops in the fight against al Houthi forces and allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He also said that the border area remains largely quiet following tribal mediation last week, though he acknowledged that al Houthi-Saleh forces launch cross-border attacks “from time to time.”
- Al Houthi forces reportedly fired shells into the Saudi town of al Tuwal in Jazan province on March 16, injuring a local resident. The attack likely violates the unofficial border ceasefire between Saudi Arabia and the al Houthis. Al Houthi forces also launched rockets into al Tuwal on March 9. The coalition warned against further breaches but continued its negotiations and humanitarian operations with al Houthi and tribal officials.
- The Saudi-led coalition launched two strikes on al Hafa base just outside of Sana’a on March 17. The strikes are the closest reported to the capital since similar strikes on March 10. Coalition airstrikes on the capital Sana’a have fallen since the beginning of the border ceasefire, though the coalition continues its campaign in the districts surrounding Sana’a and across Yemen’s frontlines.
- Coalition helicopters carried out strikes on vehicles carrying suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants along the Aden-Abyan road in southern Yemen on March 16, according to reports. The vehicles were reportedly traveling between Aden and Zinjibar. AQAP has held Zinjibar since December 2015 and also operates in Aden, though recent coalition-backed operations have aimed to clear militants from the city.
- Three would-be suicide bombers inadvertently detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) at one of the militants’ homes in Aden’s northern Dar Sa’d district on March 16, killing all three. Security forces investigating the explosion at found instruction manuals believed to have been produced by al Qaeda, as well as various kinds of military equipment. The militants’ affiliation, if any, remains unconfirmed. Dar Sa’d lies approximately 20 kilometers south of al Hawta, Lahij governorate, which AQAP has controlled since late January.
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the coalition’s March 15 airstrike on a market in northeastern Hajjah governorate on March 16. He warned that any intentional attack on civilian target could constitute a violation of international law, and called on all parties to bring the conflict to a halt and resume negotiations. The UN has highlighted potential violations of international law on both sides of the conflict in Yemen and seeks to coordinate high-level talks among Yemen’s warring parties.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A self-described Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militant allegedly operating in Yemen claimed that multiple Somali tribes in northern Somalia’s Golis Mountain region have declared support for ISIS. The militant, an alleged former al Shabaab member known as Abu Osama Somali, also expressed support for pro-ISIS religious leader Abdul Qadir Mumin, whose cell reportedly defected from al Shabaab to ISIS last year.
- Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for two attacks that occurred in Somalia’s Jubbaland region on March 16 via pro-al Shabaab social media accounts. The group claimed to kill at least three soldiers during an attack on Afmadow and 10 soldiers during an ambush on a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) convoy. The Kenyan government claimed that KDF soldiers killed 19 militants during the March 16 Afmadow attack.
- Suspected al Shabaab militants targeted a Somali National Army (SNA) checkpoint with a hand grenade in Mogadishu’s Bakara Market neighborhood on March 16. Witnesses also reported that SNA troops responding to the scene fired at crowds of people near the checkpoint.
- Puntland Defense Forces (PDF) troops skirmished with al Shabaab militants in Suuj town in the Bari region of northern Somalia on March 16 and 17, killing at least 15 militants. The governor of Nugaal region, which borders Bari, said that two PDF soldiers were killed in the same battle. Residents of villages along the Indian Ocean also reported fighter jets of unknown origin flying low over the coast. The militants involved in these clashes may have landed at Gara’ad town, which is 220 km south of Suuj, on March 14. The Puntland Autonomous State of Somalia declared a state of emergency on March 15 and its president announced that Puntland’s military can defeat al Shabaab without assistance from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).