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: Al Houthi officials call for mass rally in Sana’a; Saudi foreign minister signals shift in coalition priorities in Yemen; Yemen peace talks continue in Kuwait; coalition airstrikes target al Houthi-Saleh military positions in Amran governorate
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab claims to have thwarted May 12 raid in Lower Shabelle region; Somalia protests closure of Dadaab camp; Puntland decries electoral process changes; Kenyan official reports on operation to clear Boni forest
Yemen Security Brief
- Al Houthi officials in the Yemeni capital Sana’a called for a mass rally on the evening of May 13 under the slogan, “We continue to confront the American aggression and oppression.” Neither the slogan nor the official announcement by the al Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee refers to the Saudi-led coalition, which al Houthi-led rallies typically address.
- Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir stated that Saudi Arabia’s priority in Yemen is the fight against al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and called the al Houthis Saudi Arabia’s neighbors, in a May 12 interview with French newspaper Le Figaro. The statement marks a shift in tone with respect to the al Houthis, who have been the primary target of the Saudi-led coalition since its intervention in Yemen in March 2015.
- Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation and the al Houthi-General People’s Congress (GPC) delegation continued discussions in the UN-led peace talks in Kuwait on May 13. The delegations discussed security and political issues and issues related to prisoners and detainees in three parallel committees. None of the committees reported significant progress. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged the parties to build on international support and move toward a negotiated solution.
- The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on positions belonging to al Houthi forces and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in northwestern Amran governorate on May 13. The strikes targeted military positions held by the 29th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, also known as the Giants, whose base al Houthi-Saleh forces seized on May 1. President Hadi’s delegation temporarily suspended its participation in the UN-led peace talks in Kuwait after the seizure of the base. Investigations into the circumstances of the base seizure are forthcoming.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab claimed to have successfully defended against the May 12 U.S.-backed raid near Sabib in Lower Shabelle region. The al Shabaab statement, reported on the group’s Radio Andalus and through the Shahada News Agency Telegram feed, said that the attacking forces, which including Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army troops, faced strong resistance from al Shabaab’s Harakah fighters and then retreated toward Afgoi, just south of Mogadishu.
- The Somali Federal Government is opposed to the Kenyan closure of Dadaab refugee camp. The Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the closure of the camp will increase the threat of terrorism in a May 12 press statement. Kenya had announced plans to close the refugee camp on May 6, citing concerns of al Shabaab’s threat to the country.
- The semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia issued a presidential statement decrying changes to the electoral model for the Somali federal parliament. Puntland supported the 4.5 clan model as a criterion to select the parliament and cited recent changes to the electoral college as a problem. Separately, Somalia and the self-declared independent Somaliland will meet on May 31 in Turkey to discuss their relationship. Somaliland has formal recognition of its status as an independent state. Somalia made a $1 million donation to aid the drought-stricken region of Somaliland.
- Kenyan head of a joint army and police operation James Ole Serian said that Kenyan troops have killed ten suspected al Shabaab militants and detained 37 others since the start of the operation in Boni Forest along the Kenyan-Somali border. Ole Serian added that Kenyan troops destroyed five al Shabaab camps in the forest last year.