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: ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan detonates three SVIBEDs targeting military sites in Aden; former president Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks at rally marking anniversary of Saudi-led coalition campaign in Sana’a; reported U.S. airstrikes target AQAP positions in Abyan governorate; reported coalition airstrikes target suspected AQAP militants in Lahij governorate; al Houthis exchange prisoners with Saudi-led coalition; gunmen assassinate Saleh-linked brigadier general in Dhamar
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab executes charcoal traders in Badhadhe, Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab ambushes a SNA convoy near El Baraf, Middle Shabelle region; suspected al Shabaab militants kill a NISA soldier in Mogadishu, Banadir region; tribal militiamen blockade Beledweyne, Hiraan region; Galmudug security forces interdict suspected al Shabaab boat along the Mudug region’s coast
Yemen Security Brief
- Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan militants detonated three suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) in Aden on March 25, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign. Militants detonated two bombs at checkpoints near the Saudi-led coalition’s base at Ra’s Abbas in the Buraiqa area in northwestern Aden, killing at least 12 people. ISIS fighters subsequently attempted to raid the base but were repelled by forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, according to a Hadi government spokesperson. Militants detonated the third bomb, an ambulance SVBIED, at another military checkpoint nearby, killing 14 people. The pro-ISIS ‘Amaq News Agency claimed credit for the attack, which killed at least 26 civilians and military personnel and wounded dozens.
- Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh gave his first speech since the start of the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in Yemen at rally marking the campaign’s anniversary. Tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered in Sana’a on March 26 for anti-coalition rallies, held separately by Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) and the al Houthis. Saleh called for direct talks with the Saudi-led coalition and expressed doubts regarding UN-brokered peace negotiations, set to begin on April 18. Chairman of the al Houthi Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali al Houthi attended the GPC rally, indicating that the two parties continue to work together despite disagreements. Coalition jets flew over Sana’a during the rallies in an apparent show of force.
- Reported U.S. airstrikes targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Abyan governorate on March 26 and 27. One strike hit an AQAP training facility east of the city of al Mahfad in northeaster Abyan on March 26, killing at least eight militants. Suspected U.S. airstrikes also targeted militant gatherings in the Abyani villages of al Hadan and Naqil al Hayala on March 27, and subsequent strikes destroyed an AQAP-occupied government intelligence office in the governorate capital of Zinjibar and an abandoned weapons factory used by the group in the nearby city of Ja’ar. The most recent confirmed U.S. strike killed over 70 militants at a training camp in Hadramawt governorate on March 22.
- Reported Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit groups of suspected AQAP militants al Khudhara’, Lahij governorate, just north of Aden, on March 26 and 27. Reported coalition warplanes also bombed militant positions in Jawla, also north of Aden, on March 28. The Saudi-led coalition launched a limited air campaign targeting militants in southern and eastern Yemen earlier this year.
- Al Houthi and Saudi officials exchanged prisoners on March 26. Sources from both sides confirmed the swap of nine Saudis for approximately 100 Houthi supporters. The swap follows weeks of direct talks between al Houthi and Saudi officials that have focused on facilitating the exchange of prisoners and the delivery of humanitarian aid. A nation-wide ceasefire is expected to begin on April 10, followed by UN-brokered peace talks set for April 18 in Kuwait. 
- Gunmen assassinated Brigadier General Ali Saeed al Ansi of in front of his house in Dhamar city on March 28. Al Ansi was former president Saleh’s son-in-law and was a retired brigade commander who served in the Yemeni army during Saleh’s presidency. The suspects fled the scene.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants executed eight charcoal traders near the Lower Jubba region’s Badhadhe town, on March 28. The militants also burned at least six of the vehicles as well as 40 donkey cart full of charcoal. Additionally, the militants kidnapped a number of traders and took them to an unspecified location. Al Shabaab recently forbade residents from cutting down trees for charcoal within the group’s territory.
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Somali National Army (SNA) convoy as it left a camp near El Baraf, Middle Shabelle region on March 27, killing one soldier and injuring two others. SNA forces repulsed the ambush and claimed to kill an unspecified number of militants. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) officials said that their forces, along with the SNA, still retain control over the area.
- Suspected al Shabaab gunmen killed a National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) soldier in Mogadishu’s Hodon district on March 27. They attacked at the victim’s home and wounded his wife. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Tribal militiamen blocked major roadways leading in to Beledweyne, Hiraan region on March 27. The blockade is reportedly in response to the killing of a tribal elder in the city’s western Howlwadag neighborhood earlier on the same day. The escalated tensions come as Somalia’s president is visiting the city and meeting with clan elders in order to speed the planned federal state formation process which will merge the Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions into a single federally-sanctioned state. Separately, unidentified assailants also killed a Qur’an teacher in the city on March 26.
- Galmudug security forces interdicted a suspected al Shabaab boat at an unspecified location along the Mudug region’s coast on March 27. Galmudug officials did not specific the number of militants onboard the boat. The interdiction comes two weeks after a large contingent of al Shabaab militants arrived in northern Somalia by boat and temporarily captured a string of villages in the Puntland and Galmudug autonomous regions.