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: Security forces find and clear IEDs in Aden mosques; delegations in Kuwait agree to prisoner release; Aden police forces arrest cell allegedly responsible for illegal deportations; coalition reaffirms its adherence to international law; UN Special Envoy for Yemen calls for joint body to address economic issues
Horn of Africa: SNA and AMISOM troops arrest over 30 suspected al Shabaab members in Burdubo, Gedo region; SNA and AMISOM forces drive al Shabaab out of Toratorow, Lower Shabelle region but then withdraw from the town; Ethiopian AMISOM troops repulse an al Shabaab attack in Hudur, Bakool region; seven men involved in al Shabaab’s 2010 World Cup bombings face the death penalty in Uganda
Yemen Security Brief
- Government security forces found and cleared two improvised explosive devices (IED) in mosques in al Mansoura district, Aden on May 27. Security forces cleared an IED from al Sabahah mosque in the Abdul Aziz area of Aden’s al Mansoura district that may have been set to detonate during Friday prayers. Security forces responded to reports of another IED at al Ridha mosque, also in al Mansoura, and successfully cleared the device. Al Ridha and al Sabahah mosques are two of al Mansoura’s largest. Officials in Aden reportedly canceled Friday prayers in other mosques due to security concerns. Militants have not previously targeted mosques in Aden, though the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) conducted an explosives campaign against mosques in the capital Sana’a throughout 2015.
- The negotiating parties at the UN-led peace talks in Kuwait agreed on May 26 to release thousands of prisoners and detainees before the beginning of Ramadan on June 5. Both sides acknowledged the agreement, though sources differ on the precise number of prisoners to be exchanged. Al Houthi-run Saba News reported that each side will submit a list of 500 prisoners to the UN for the other side to release. Sources in Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government indicated the parties had agreed to release all prisoners and detainees, who reportedly total over 4,000, but plans for these releases remain unknown. UN mediators and local committees will facilitate the exchange, which would be the largest of its kind since the beginning of the current conflict. The exchange is the first agreement to arise from the Kuwait talks, which began on April 21.
- Police forces in Aden arrested a security cell accused of raiding households illegally and deporting residents of northern Yemeni origin from Aden. The cell was led by Brigadier General Abdul Hafiz al Saqqaf, a former commander of the Yemeni Special Security Forces (SSF) who defected when President Hadi attempted to dismiss him in March 2015 after al Saqqaf and SSF forces loyal to him refused to relinquish control of Aden’s airport. Al Saqqaf is rumored to be loyal to the al Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Local militias, including a group known as the al Hizam Brigade, have recently taken up the implementation of controversial security measures in Aden, including a ban on weekday sales of qat and deportation of non-Adeni residents. Hadi government officials have called for a halt to deportations, and Aden Governor Zubaidi reportedly agreed to end the ban on qat sales.
- The Saudi-led coalition affirmed its commitment and adherence to international humanitarian law in a May 26 statement. The statement described the coalition’s approach to targeting, including a process of confirming military targets through multiple sources and refraining from targeting places of worship, non-governmental and international organizations, diplomatic offices and residences, and cultural sites. The coalition and Yemen’s warring factions have all been accused of violating international law throughout the ongoing conflict.
- UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed proposed forming a joint body to address Yemen’s economic crisis in a May 26 statement. Ould Cheikh Ahmed provided no further details on the body, but warned of humanitarian and societal consequences should the economic continue to decline. Yemen’s currency recently declined from around 250 riyals to the U.S. dollar to 315 riyals in Yemen’s unofficial currency exchange market, exacerbating an already dire economic situation.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Somali National Army (SNA) forces backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops arrested over 30 suspected al Shabaab members and seized weapons in Burdubo, Gedo region on May 27. Somali officials will interrogate the detainees. Likely al Shabaab militants detonated two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a tea shop in Burdubo targeting government and security personnel on May 26.
- SNA and AMISOM forces reportedly recaptured Toratorow, Lower Shabelle region from al Shabaab militants, who withdrew without a fight, on May 26. Lower Shabelle governor Ibrahim Najah said that al Shabaab suffered heavy losses and that the SNA and AMISOM forces withdrew after recapturing the town. Al Shabaab claimed that the group defeated the government forces and killed several soldiers. Al Shabaab militants reportedly returned to Toratorow after SNA and AMISOM troops withdrew. SNA forces may have set up barracks in the town to prevent the militants from launching offensive operations, according to breaking reports.
- Ethiopian AMISOM troops repulsed an al Shabaab attack on a convoy near Hudur, Bakool region on May 26. Al Shabaab claimed it killed approximately 30 soldiers and destroyed military vehicles using heavy arms, though AMISOM has not confirmed the reported casualties. The district commander of Rabdhure, Bakool region said that SNA and AMISOM forces have launched an offensive against the militants and will fight until they recapture all militant-controlled areas in the region.
- Kampala’s High Court in Uganda tried 13 men and charged seven with terrorism on May 27. The men participated in an al Shabaab- and al Qaeda-supported attack that targeted a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant during a screening of the World Cup final on July 11, 2010, killing 74 people. Those convicted include Isa Ahmed Luyima, who masterminded the attack. The High Court judge said the militants planned the attack in Somalia and transferred explosives from Kenya. The seven men face the death penalty.