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: Pro-Hadi and local militia forces reportedly reclaim government buildings from militants in al Mansoura district, Aden; mid-level AQAP commander denies threat to U.S. from al Hajr training camp; Prime Minister Bahah and President Hadi prepare for series of meetings with foreign officials; pro-Hadi and popular resistance forces clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces near Midi in Hajjah governorate; AQAP’s Ansar al Sharia releases video of operations in Taiz city
Horn of Africa: New Ugandan Battle Group begins deployment to Somalia; suspected al Shabaab militants launch mortar strike on residential areas of Leego, Bay region; SNA and AMISOM troops conduct clearing operations in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemeni military forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and local allied militias reportedly retook several government buildings from suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Mansoura district, Aden on March 30. The raids follow a complex attack claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan on March 25, and a series of U.S. and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on militant positions throughout southern Yemen over the past week. Pro-Hadi security forces conducted clearing operations in al Mansoura district on March 12, but militants continue to operate in the area.
- Mid-level AQAP commander Sa’ad bin Atef al Awlaki denied the Pentagon’s statement that the March 22 U.S. airstrike on an AQAP training camp in al Hajr, Hadramawt would inhibit AQAP’s ability to threaten U.S. interests. Al Awlaki, speaking in a video released on March 30, emphasized that the militants at the camp were training to fight al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate and did not pose a threat to the United States. A previous statement by AQAP’s insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, denounced the attack as a Saudi attempt to prolong the conflict with the al Houthis. AQAP is leveraging the anti-al Houthi fight to build support among Sunni populations in central Yemen.
- Yemeni Prime Minister and Vice President Khaled Bahah departed Aden for Riyadh on March 30 to join President Hadi for a series of meetings with foreign officials, including officials from the Saudi-led coalition. The talks are expected to focus on counter-terror efforts, economic development, and security issues in the areas of Yemen under Hadi government control. The meetings will precede a nationwide ceasefire and a new round of UN-sponsored peace talks between the Hadi government, the al Houthis, and the General People’s Congress, which is led by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
- Hadi government media claimed that pro-Hadi forces successfully reclaimed control of Midi port in Hajjah governorate on March 27. Al Houthi media claimed that al Houthi forces repelled the attack on Midi and inflicted more than 350 casualties. Al Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam denounced the operation as an “escalation,” likely in reference to the fragile unofficial ceasefire in the border region that began alongside direct talks between the al Houthis and Saudi Arabia last month.
- AQAP’s Ansar al Sharia released a video of its operations against al Houthi-Saleh forces in Taiz city on March 27. The video highlights fighting in the al Jahmaliyah area of southeastern Taiz city, as well as artillery and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. Ansar al Sharia has operated in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city and the site of entrenched fighting between al Houthi-Saleh forces and local militias, since early in the current conflict. The group’s propaganda touts major successes against al Houthi forces in Taiz, most recently claiming a role in the offensive that broke the al Houthis’ siege on western Taiz on March 11.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- A new Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) Battle Group deployed to Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Ugandan contingent. The first contingent of Battle Group 18’s 2,000 troops arrived at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport on March 28. Battle Group 18 will relieve Battle Group 15, which has been deployed at Aribiska in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region since November 2015. Battle Group 18 will maintain the base at Aribiska, which is located approximately 30 km west of Mogadishu near the town of Afgoi, which is an intersection for several major roads.
- Suspected al Shabaab militants fired mortars at residential areas of Leego town in Somalia’s Bay region on March 29. Local officials did not report any casualties, and security forces failed to locate the perpetrators. Leego hosts an AMISOM base which was attacked by al Shabaab militants in July 2015. It is unclear if the AMISOM base was the target of the mortar attack.
- Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM troops detained a number of suspected al Shabaab militants during a clearing operation in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on March 30. The operation was a response the discovery of a potential vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED), which Somali National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA) agents defused on March 29 in Mogadishu’s Hodan district.