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: WFP delivers aid to al Hudaydah as coalition orders all vessels to leave the port; international aid organizations launch campaign to raise 1.8 billion USD for Yemen; Hadi accuses Iran of seeking to build missile factory in Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces launch Tochka missile at pro-Hadi base in Ma’rib; Hadi government forms special economic committee
Horn of Africa: IED blast hits Somali defense minister’s convoy in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region; Somali court sentences al Shabaab communications director to death in Mogadishu, Banadir region; unidentified assailants target SNA troops in grenade attack in Marko, Lower Shabelle region; KDF forces arrest allegedly al Shabaab-linked Somali herders in Darul-Salam village, Gedo region
Yemen Security Brief
- The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced on March 2 that its vessel, the Mainport Cedar, delivered a shipment of food and medical supplies to al Hudaydah port, weeks after the Saudi-led coalition diverted the shipment to the Saudi port of Jazan on February 11. The coalition held the vessel after discovering communication equipment on board. The WFP confirmed that it offloaded the equipment in Jazan in order to complete the voyage to Yemen. The delivery coincided with orders from the coalition that all vessels currently anchored at al Hudaydah leave the port. The coalition announced that it seeks to facilitate aid deliveries to the port, which is reportedly crowded with empty vessels. Al Hudaydah is Yemen’s second largest port and a key smuggling point for the al Houthi-Saleh alliance, which has held the port since late 2014.
- International aid organizations launched a campaign on March 1 to raise 1.8 billion USD for Yemen in 2016. The campaign aims to provide assistance to some 13.6 million Yemenis, approximately 65% of those currently requiring assistance.
- Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi claimed that Iran sought to build a missile factory in Yemen during an interview with a Saudi media outlet. Hadi indicated that coalition-backed authorities discovered components for a Grad missile factory hidden within a container of children’s toys bound for the al Houthi stronghold of Sa’ada. He reiterated his recent claims that Iranian officials and Hezbollah operatives are providing training to al Houthi fighters. Hadi also claimed that the coalition and Yemeni forces have liberated 85% of the country from forces loyal to the al Houthis and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and said that Yemen would have become an Iranian state without the coalition’s intervention. Hadi’s remarks come amid growing regional tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
- Pro-al Houthi media claimed that al Houthi-Saleh forces launched a Tockha missile at the pro-Hadi al Mas military base in Ma’rib governorate on March 3. The al Houthis claimed that the missile struck its target and caused significant casualties. The strike is not confirmed, and pro-Hadi sources denied the claim. Fighting in Ma’rib governorate has escalated over the past weeks alongside coalition-backed operations neighboring Nihm district, Sana’a govenorate.
- President Hadi’s government formed a special economic committee in mid-January to address the country’s mounting financial challenges. The committee has proposed cuts in government employees, including downsizing Yemen’s diplomatic missions, eliminating ghost workers and double dippers, and offering employees extended periods of leave at half pay. Proposals also include the resumption of oil and natural gas exports, though experts warn such projects are unlikely to succeed in the midst of Yemen’s ongoing civil war. Revenues from Yemen’s main exports, oil and natural gas, fell by nearly 45% in 2014 after the outbreak of the current conflict.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting the Somali defense minister’s convoy near the Kismayo airport in Lower Jubba region on March 3. The explosion killed five Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers in the convoy but did not harm the defense minister, Gen. Abdulkadir Sheikh Ali Dini. Al Shabaab claimed credit for the attack.
- A Somali military court sentenced a former al Shabaab communications director to death on March 3, 2016 in Mogadishu, Banadir region. Hassan Hanafi Hajji worked for al Shabaab’s media outlet Radio Andalus beginning in 2008 and was arrested in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya. He confessed to involvement in the murder of at least five other journalists. The military court sentenced Hajii to death by firing squad.
- An unidentified assailant hurled a hand grenade at SNA soldiers on patrol in Marka, Lower Shabelle region on March 3. The attack wounded at least one civilian. The assailant fled the scene.
- Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) arrested a number of allegedly al Shabaab-linked Somali herders in the Gedo region’s Darul-Salam village on March 2. Darul-Salam residents said that the KDF forces arrested the herders from their homes and took them to Wajir town in northeastern Kenya. The arrests come as Kenyan investigations into the 15 JAN attack on the El Adde AMISOM forward operating base (FOB) allege that members of the Marehan Clan, which is prominent in the Gedo region, may have supported al Shabaab during the attack. Kenyan officials have not commented on the arrests.