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: Saudi Arabia confirms prisoner exchange and unofficial cessation of border hostilities with al Houthis despite coalition’s denial of direct negotiations; al Houthi-linked cleric issues fatwa urging reconciliation with Saudi Arabia; Australian ship apprehends weapons smugglers off coast of Oman
Horn of Africa: U.S. special operations forces participate in raid on al Shabaab camp in Awdaagle, Lower Shabelle region; senior al Shabaab commanders and foreign fighters killed in March 6 airstrike in Raso, Hiiraan region; suspected al Shabaab member detonates SVBIED at police academy in Mogadishu; Somali security minister claims weapons shipment seized near Oman was bound for al Shabaab
Yemen Security Brief
- Saudi state media reported on March 9 that Saudi Arabia conducted a prisoner exchange with the al Houthis and that hostilities have ceased along the Saudi-Yemeni border. Tribal mediators helped facilitate the March 7 prisoner exchange, in which Saudi Arabia exchanged seven Yemenis for a Saudi lieutenant held by the al Houthis. The Saudi statement also praised the unofficial cessation of hostilities as a step towards a political solution. An al Houthi spokesman confirmed reports that an al Houthi delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia for peace talks on March 7. Saudi-led coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al Asiri and Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s foreign minister, Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, have denied reports that direct negotiations between the parties are ongoing.
- Issam al Imad, a Zaydi Shia cleric with ties to the al Houthis, issued a fatwa urging reconciliation with Saudi Arabia on March 8. The fatwa contradicts a January 20 fatwa issued by Zaydi cleric Mohammad al Mata’ that declared President Hadi and his supporters apostates and calling for jihad against them. The fatwa coincides with reports of direct talks between Saudi Arabia, which backs the Hadi government, and al Houthi officials.
- An Australian naval vessel intercepted a small, stateless fishing vessel carrying over 2,000 weapons off the coast of Oman. It is possible that the cargo originated in Iran and was bound for Yemen by way of Somalia. The vessel was manned by a crew of 18 men whose nationalities are unconfirmed and carried 1,989 AK-47s and 100 rocket propelled grenades.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- U.S. special operations forces and Somali troops participated in a raid on an al Shabaab camp near Awdaagle in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region around midnight on March 9. Two helicopters landed three kilometers outside the village and discharged troops who engaged al Shabaab fighters in the town for roughly 30 minutes, killing at least 11 of them. The Awdaagle district commissioner claimed that the group of militants was in the advanced stages of planning an attack on an unidentified target when the raid occurred. Al Shabaab spokesperson Abdul Aziz Abu Musab confirmed the attack. Awdaagle is located approximately 75 kilometers from Balidogle Air Base, which is a known staging point for U.S. operations in Somalia.
- The district commissioner for Bulo-Baarde town, Abdiaziz Durow, claimed that several high-ranking al Shabaab commanders were killed in the March 6 airstrike conducted by the United States on an al Shabaab training camp in Raso village in Somalia’s Hiiraan region. Durow said that the group’s senior defense official, Sheikh Abukar Ali Aden, and governor for the Hiiraan region, Yusuf Ali Ugas, were among the 150 militants killed in the airstrike. Another Somali official noted that a number of the fighters killed were identified as foreign fighters who had travelled from other countries to join al Shabaab.
- A suspected al Shabaab operative detonated a suicide vehicle-borne explosive device (SVBIED) outside a Somali police academy and nearby café in Mogadishu on March 9, killing at least three police cadets. The cadets were sitting at the café after a break from their classes when the device exploded.
- The Somali Minister of Internal Security Abdirizak Omar claimed that a large cache of illegal weaponry seized off the coast of Oman by the Australian Navy was destined for al Shabaab contacts in Somalia. The shipment, which was thought to have a market value of over $2 million, contained at least 1500 AK-47 assault rifles, 20 mortar tubes and 100 rocket-propelled grenades. Other reports claim that the shipment was bound for the al Houthis in Yemen.