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: Airstrikes target AQAP camps near al Mukalla, Hadramawt; AQAP reaffirms commitment to anti-al Houthi fight in al Bayda after U.S. strike; coalition airstrikes target al Houthi military sites near Sana’a
Horn of Africa: French Navy frigate interdicts weapons shipment bound for Somalia; Galmudug state forces arrest three foreign fighters in eastern Mudug region; suspected al Shabaab militants execute Somali-Canadian businessman in Heliwa district, Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants raid police outpost in Qoryoley, Lower Shabelle region; NISA forces diffuse possible VBIED in Hodan district, Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
- Reported Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-occupied military camps near al Mukalla, Hadramawt on March 28. The camps are part of Yemen’s Second Military District and are located near al Mukalla’s military airport, which AQAP seized in April 2015. Local residents fled the area during the bombing, and AQAP is reportedly leading popular protests against the airstrikes. The coalition launched an intermittent air campaign on AQAP targets earlier this year and has struck militant sites in Lahij, Abyan, and Hadramawt governorates. Unconfirmed reports have claimed that the U.S. conducted the March 28 strike, following a confirmed U.S. strike on an AQAP training camp in Hadramawt on March 22. Rumors are circulating that the strike killed AQAP emir Qasim al Raymi, but these reports are not confirmed. 
- AQAP released a statement on March 27 in response to the March 22 U.S. airstrike that killed at least 50 militants near al Mukalla, Hadramawt on March 22. AQAP’s division in central Yemen’s said that the fighters at the camp were training to join the anti-al Houthi fight in al Bayda and said that the strike will not stop them from capturing the governorate. The statement also claimed that the Saudi-led coalition supervised the U.S. strike to “prolong” the war with the al Houthis. AQAP and its insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, are leveraging the anti-al Houthi fight to build support among location anti-al Houthi populations in central Yemen.
- Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted al Houthi military targets east of the capital Sana’a on March 28 and to the east and west of the city on March 29. The strikes targeted mountainous terrain near the Movenpick Hotel, a special forces camp in Abbah, west of Sana’a, and al Hafa camp, east of the city.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- The FS Provence, a French naval frigate assigned to anti-piracy Combined Task Force 150, interdicted a fishing dhow smuggling several hundred weapons off the coast of Somalia. A Caiman helicopter from the Provence intercepted the dhow after a records search could not the ship’s registry in any nearby countries. The French search team found several hundred assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons aboard. The status of the dhow’s crew is unknown. An Australian frigate intercepted a similar weapons shipment with reported ties to Iran off the coast of Oman earlier this month.
- Galmudug Federal State security forces captured 12 al Shabaab militants, including three foreign fighters, in eastern Mudug region on March 28. The group included one Tanzanian and two Kenyans, in addition to nine Somali militants. A Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) spokesperson said that the militants were arrested as part of ongoing operations in Galmudug and Puntland states in the wake of the March 14 al Shabaab incursion into north Somalia.
- Suspected al Shabaab militants executed a Somali-born Canadian businessman, identified as Sade Mahad Dirir, at a mosque in Mogadishu’s Heliwa district on March 28. Mr. Dirir had reportedly just finished praying when two young men entered the mosque, walked directly to the victim and shot him with a pistol. Local sources claim that Mr. Dirir’s family had built and maintained the mosque and several offices buildings in the area, which are rented to the Somali government. Al Shabaab frequently targets foreign citizens, particularly diaspora Somalis and Turks.
- Al Shabaab militants raided a Somali police outpost in the Qoryoley town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region overnight on March 28 and 29. Casualty estimates were not available for the incident. It is also unclear if the Somali police were still in control of the outpost.
- Somali NISA agents discovered and cleared a potential vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Mogadishu‘s Hodan district on March 29. NISA later claimed to arrest an al Shabaab “complex attack team” in the area and said that the team had planned to target a nearby restaurant.