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: UN Special Envoy meets with Hadi government officials and al Houthi-Saleh representatives; coalition-backed forces hold ground in Taiz while advancing in Ma’rib and Shabwah; al Houthi forces shell Saudi border town; Israel airlifts 19 Yemeni Jews to Israel

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab raids SNA base in Laanta Buuro, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab ambushes KDF convoy near Afmadow, Lower Jubba region; thirty SNA soldiers defect to al Shabaab in Buulobarde, Hiiraan region; al Shabaab forms Kenyan battalion

Yemen Security Brief

  • UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with representatives of Yemen’s internationally recognized government under President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi on March 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ould Cheikh Ahmed also met with representatives of the al Houthi regime and supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on March 19 and 20 in Sana’a, Yemen. Both sides agreed to a formal ceasefire as a confidence building measure ahead of a new round of UN-brokered talks, according to unconfirmed reports. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the al Houthis also agreed to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for them to disarm and withdraw from occupied areas. Ould Cheikh Ahmed praised the meetings and announced the next round of talks would begin soon in Kuwait. The UN Special Envoy is seeking to build on the momentum of direct talks between al Houthi and Saudi officials and a de-escalation of tensions along the Saudi-Yemeni border.[1]
  • Fighting continues along the major frontlines in Yemen. Forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition reportedly held the strategic 35th Brigade Base in western Taiz against an al Houthi-Saleh counterattack, ten days after pro-Hadi forces broke a months-long siege on city’s western neighborhoods. Meanwhile, pro-Hadi and popular resistance forces advanced in Harib district in southern Ma’rib governorate and contested al Houthi-Saleh positions in Bayhan and Usaylan districts in neighboring Shabwah governorate.[2]   
  • Al Houthi forces fired shells on Samtah in southwestern Jazan province, Saudi Arabia on March 18. The shells hit a mosque and several homes but sources report no casualties. Al Houthi forces have shelled multiple Saudi border towns in recent weeks, though the unofficial border ceasefire appears to have reduced clashes on the ground.[3]
  • Israel airlifted 19 Yemeni Jews out of Sana’a and Raydah in northwestern Yemen for resettlement in Israel. The operation began last week and concluded on March 20, according to Israeli officials. Only approximately 50 Jews remain in Yemen, which was once home to a large Jewish minority. Israel airlifted nearly 50,000 Yemeni Jews to Israel in 1949 and 1950 as part of Operation Magic Carpet.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants overran and raided a Somali National Army (SNA) base near Laanta Buuro town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on March 20. The militants were well- armed and killed approximately 70 SNA soldiers while storming the base, which is located 45 km from Mogadishu.  An al Shabaab spokesperson claimed that the group also seized 10 military vehicles, seven of which were equipped with anti-aircraft weapons. An SNA spokesman challenged the casualty claims but did confirm the theft of nine vehicles. The militants reportedly preached to nearby residents, telling them to renounce their support for the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) before leaving the base at daybreak on March 21.[5]
  • Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) AMISOM convoy traveling through Hayo town near Afmadow in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region on March 19, reportedly destroying six vehicles and killing at least 12 Kenyan soldiers. An al Shabaab spokesperson also said that two Kenyan troops were captured during the fight but did not provide proof. A KDF spokesman claimed that 21 militants and two KDF soldiers were killed during the firefight.[6] 
  • Al Shabaab militants in Somalia’s Hiiraan region announced that 30 SNA soldiers stationed in Buulobarde have surrendered and defected to the militant group. The group’s spokesperson claimed that the soldiers defected due to hardships and lack of pay. The commander of SNA troops in Hiiraan region denied al Shabaab’s claim.[7]
  • Al Shabaab reportedly founded a new battalion comprised exclusively of Kenyan militants. The unit is named the “Aboud Rogo Battalion” in reference to a deceased Kenyan al Shabaab leader.[8]
[1] “UN envoy visits Yemen for talks with rebels,” Agence France Presse, March 19, 2016,; and Ahmed al Haj, “Yemeni officials say government, rebels, agree on ceasefire,” Associated Press, March 20, 2016,; UN Envoy to Yemen, Twitter, March 21, 2016,; and UN Envoy to Yemen, Twitter, March 21, 2016,  
[2] Ahmed al Haj, “Yemen clashes kill 35 as rebels try to retake western Taiz,” Ahmed al Haj, March 19, 2016,
“Yemen army gains new areas in Ma’rib,” Emirates 24/7, March 20, 2016,; and “Major military leader announces the launching of an attack to retake the city of Bayhan in Shabwah,” Barakish, March 19, 2016,
[3] Khamis al Zahrani, “Shelling from Yemen hits Saudi border village,” Al Arabiya, March 19, 2016,
[4] Mike Smith, “Israel 'rescues' 19 Jews from war-torn Yemen in covert operation,” Agence France Presse, March 21, 2016,
[5] Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar, “Somali militants overrun military base, killing at least one,” Reuters News, March 21, 2016,; “Al-Shabaab lays ambush on Somali national army base outside Mogadishu, casualties reported,” Goobjoog News, March 21, 2016;; and “Al Shabaab briefly seizes army base, kills soldiers,” Shabelle News, March 21, 2016,
[6] SITE Intelligence Group, source available upon request; “Al shabaab ambushes KDF convoy in Somalia,” Shabelle News, March 19, 2016,; and “KDF kills 40 Shabaab, captures commander,” Hiiraan News, March 21, 2016,
[7] “Al shabaab says 30 SNA soldiers surrendered,” Shabelle News, March 21, 2016,
[8] Nominal Analyst, Twitter, March 21, 2016,
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