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 leader pledges allegiance to global al Qaeda leader and threatens US and allies; AQAP confirms death of AQAP jurist; Saudi-led coalition forces clash with UAE-backed forces in Aden governorate; STC forces deploy to Abyan governorate; al Houthis claim intercepting Saudi-led coalition plane in Ma’rib governorate; Hadi government forces clash with al Houthi militants in Ma’rib governorate
Horn of Africa: Somali special forces foil al Shabaab VBIEDs in southern Somalia; Somali special forces arrest al Shabaab intelligence official in Janaale in southern Somalia; al Shabaab assassinates Somali politician in central Somalia; al Shabaab detonates IED killing Somali police chief; KDF repulses al Shabaab raid in southeastern Kenya; Ethiopian troops cross into northwestern Somalia
Yemen Security Brief:
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Khaled Batarfi pledged allegiance to global al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a video released on March 20. Batarfi lauded the Taliban for “defeating” the US, referring to the US-Taliban peace agreement. Batarfi also praised al Shabaab for its January Manda Bay attack in Kenya that killed three Americans. Batarfi threatened that AQAP would become a “nightmare” to the US and its allies. The group confirmed the death of former AQAP emir Qasim al Raymi and appointed Batarfi as its new leader in late February.
AQAP emir Batarfi confirmed the death of AQAP member Abu al Bara al Ibbi on March 19. Al Ibbi was an AQAP judge that criticized the group’s leadership. He released a book in November 2017 stating that AQAP leadership did not provide guidance on jihad.
Saudi-backed Hadi government forces clashed with United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed Southern Transitional Coalition (STC) forces in Aden City in Aden governorate in southwestern Yemen on March 20. Hadi government forces repelled STC forces that attempted to infiltrate a government military camp, destroying the UAE-backed forces’ military equipment, according to local media sources. STC forces prevented Hadi government officials from entering the presidential palace in Aden City on March 15.
UAE-backed STC forces reportedly redeployed to Abyan governorate from neighboring Aden governorate in southern Yemen on March 22. A Hadi government official accused the STC of trying to escalate tensions in southern Yemen. A STC official stated that the forces deployed to Abyan to protect southern Yemen from a possible military invasion from the north. STC forces withdrew from Abyan governorate in January as part of the Saudi-brokered November 2019 Riyadh Agreement.
Hadi government forces captured several al Houthi militants that attempted to infiltrate a Hadi government site in Sirwah district in Ma’rib governorate in northern Yemen on March 22, according to local sources. Hadi government forces shelled al Houthi sites in Sirwah district on March 21. Saudi-led coalition forces clashed with al Houthi militants in Sirwah district in mid-March.
Al Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea released a statement on March 22 claiming that the al Houthi militants intercepted a Saudi-led coalition fighter jet in Sirwah district in Ma’rib governorate in northern Yemen. Sarea said that the coalition plane left the airspace without conducting any attacks. The al Houthi movement claimed that it intercepted a Saudi-led coalition fighter jet flying over al Jawf governorate on March 16.
Horn of Africa Security Brief:
Somali special forces foiled two al Shabaab vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks near Buulo Gaduud in southern Somalia’s Lower Jubba region on March 21 and 22. Danab forces killed an unspecified number of al Shabaab militants escorting the VBIEDs, according to a military spokesman. Al Shabaab intended to detonate the VBIEDs in Kismayo, the capital of Lower Jubba region. Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device targeting a Jubbaland State security force convoy in Lower Jubba region in mid-February.
Somali special forces arrested al Shabaab’s Amniyat (intelligence) Brigade division chief for the Lower Shabelle region during an operation to retake al Shabaab’s stronghold Janaale in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia on March 16. The Somali National Army (SNA) interrogated the division chief and other al Shabaab commanders it captured during the operation, according to a SNA spokesman. The African Union Mission to Somalia and US Africa Command supported the SNA offensive to retake Janaale with advisers and airstrikes.
Al Shabaab militants assassinated a Somali city councilor in Galkayo in central Somalia’s Mudug region on March 22. Al Shabaab previously assassinated a Puntland State intelligence official in Galkayo in mid-November in 2019.
Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device targeting the Somali Afgoi police chief in Hawa Abdi in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on March 22. The attack killed the police chief and three of his bodyguards. Afgoi lies 15 miles northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu where militants assassinated three police officers on March 15.
The Kenyan Defense Force repelled an al Shabaab attack on a construction site near Milihoi in southeastern Kenya’s Lamu County on March 21. Al Shabaab militants attempted to raid the Chinese-owned construction site before fleeing into a nearby forest. Al Shabaab previously raided the same construction site in early February.
Hundreds of Ethiopian forces not affiliated with African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) crossed the Somali-Ethiopian border near Doolow in southwestern Somalia’s Gedo region on March 22. Local sources reported that the troops are headed toward Beled Hawo in the Gedo region along the Kenyan-Somali border. The Jubbaland State Vice President mobilized state security forces to “liberate Gedo from mercenaries” on March 22.
 “New leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen threatens to be a ‘nightmare for americans,” The New Arab, March 22, 2020, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/3/22/new-leader-of-yemens-al-qaeda-threatens-nightmare-for-americans; “In Augural Speech as AQAP Leader, Batarfi Promotes Taliban’s ‘Defeat’ of U.S. Praises Shabaab,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 23, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; Emily Estelle, “Africa File,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, January 10, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/africa-file/africa-file-january-9-2020-briefing; and Samuel Bloebaum and Pamela Makadsi, “ Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 24, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 24, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-24-2020.
 Elizabeth Kendall, Twitter, March 20, 2020, https://twitter.com/Dr_E_Kendall/status/1241072145402298368; and Miranda Morton, Matthew Cassidy, and Emma Tveit, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 3, 2017,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 3, 2017, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-november-3-2017.
 “Clashes erupt between Saudi and UAE in Aden,” Middle East Monitor, March 21, 2020, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200321-clashes-erupt-between-saudi-and-uae-in-aden/; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – March 16, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 16, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-16-2020.
 “ Roundup: Southern forces deployed again in Yemen amid soaring tension,” Xinhua, March 23, 2020, http://www.china.org.cn/world/Off_the_Wire/2020-03/23/content_75850109.htm.
 “The army announced the capture of 20 Houthis at the Sirwah front,” Al Mashhad al Yemeni, March 22, 2020, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/160845; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – March 11, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 11, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-11-2020.
 “Yemenis foil Saudi airstrike on Ma’rib,” International Quran News Agency, March 23,2020, https://iqna.ir/en/news/3470972/yemenis-foil-saudi-airstrike-on-ma%E2%80%99rib; and Samuel Bloebaum and Pamela Makadsi, “ Gulf of Aden Security Review -March 16, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 16, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-16-2020.
 “Somalia troops foil two Al-Shabaab truck bomb attack; militants killed,” Garowe, March 23, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-troops-foil-two-al-shabaab-truck-bomb-attack-militants-killed; and Minatullah Alobaidi, Pamela Makadsi, and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 19, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 19, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-19-2020.
 “SNA forces capture Al-Shabaab's spy chief in Southern Somalia,” Garowe, March 23, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/sna-forces-capture-al-shabaabs-spy-chief-in-southern-somalia; and Samuel Bloebaum and Pamela Makadsi, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 17, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 17, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-17-2020.
 “City Councillor Shot Dead in Galkayo town,” Mustaqbal Radio, March 23, 2020, https://www.mustaqbalradio.net/city-councillor-shot-dead-in-galkayo-town/; and Nicholas Sgambellone and Kevin Phelan, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - November 19, 2019,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 19, 2019, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-november-19-2019.
 “Roadside bomb kills police chief in Somalia,” Mustaqbal Radio, March 23, 2020, https://www.mustaqbalradio.net/roadside-bomb-kills-police-chief-in-somalia/; and “In Addition to Bloody Day of Attacks in Lower Shabelle, Shabaab Claims Over 2 Dozen Operations in 1-Week Period,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 19, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.
 “Military, police foil terror attack on camp as Shabaab flee into forest,” Daily Nation, March 23, 2020, https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Military--police-foil-terror-attack-on-camp-Shabaab-flee-/1056-5500808-dl1b2kz/index.html; and Samuel Bloebaum, Minatullah Alobaidi, and Pamela Makadsi, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 10,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 10, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-10.
 “Ethiopian troops cross over to Somalia, set base in Gedo amid tensions,” Garowe, March 23, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/ethiopian-troops-cross-over-to-somalia-sets-base-in-gedo-amid-tensions; and Pamela Makadsi and Jessica Kocan, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 2, 2020,” Gulf of Aden Security Review at the American Enterprise Institute, March 2, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-2-2020.