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: UN-led direct talks resume in Kuwait; UN Secretary-General welcomes the launch of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism in Djibouti; Yemeni government forces give AQAP a week to withdraw from Zinjibar, Abyan

Horn of Africa: Kenyan and Ugandan security services foil ISIS-linked plot in East Africa; al Shabaab replaces Lower Shabelle regional governor for clan favoritism; al Shabaab detonates IED in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief

  • UN-led peace talks between the Yemeni delegations resumed in Kuwait on May 4 after a three-day suspension. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation suspended the peace negotiations on May 1 after al Houthi forces and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah seized a military base northwest of the capital Sana’a. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced on Twitter that the resumed talks will focus on stabilizing Yemen’s nationwide ceasefire.[1]
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the launch of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) based in Djibouti on May 2. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced on May 3 that the operation aims to facilitate commercial shipments to Yemeni civilians by inspecting imports bound for militant-held territory. The inspection will ensure that shipments are not carrying weapons to al Houthi-Saleh forces in compliance with the UN-imposed arms embargo. The UN announced its plans for verification and inspection operations in September 2015 but lacked the $8 million funding to implement the project. The operation’s financial contributors include the U.S., the UK, and the European Union.[2]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Yemeni government forces reached an agreement via local mediators on May 4 in Zinjibar, Abyan governorate. The Hadi government agreed to give AQAP a week to withdraw from Zinjibar and nearby Ja’ar. Local mediators stated that AQAP agreed to withdraw its fighters. The security director of Ja’ar along with three community leaders will take over control of Ja’ar and the security director of Abyan governorate along with three community leaders will take over Zinjibar following AQAP’s withdrawal. AQAP reportedly agreed on April 30 to withdraw from Zinjibar on the condition that government forces not enter the city and that the local popular committees not resume their activities in the area. Local mediators granted the group three days to withdraw before a clearing operation on May 3, but agreed to offer AQAP an extension to avoid a battle.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Kenyan and Ugandan security services have arrested three of five suspects in an Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)-linked plot in Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda on May 3. Kenyan police detained Mohammed Abdi Ali, a Kenyan medical student, for planning to use anthrax in conjunction with conventional weapons to attack a large public location, similar to the 2013 Westgate Mall attack. Ugandan authorities apprehended Ali’s wife Nuseiba Mohammed Haji and another woman, Fatuma Mohammed Hanshi in Kampala, Uganda. Kenyan and Ugandan police are searching for Ahmed Hish and Farah Dagane, Ali’s two male accomplices and fellow medical students. A Kenyan statement did not implicate “Jabha East Africa”, a recently declared ISIS affiliate, but claimed that Ali had contact with terrorists in Syria and Libya.[4]
  • Al Shabaab reportedly removed Mohammed Abu Abdalla, its governor for Lower Shabelle region, after local clan elders accused Abdalla of favoring one clan over the other during recent inter-clan conflict mediation in Marka.  Al Shabaab reportedly replaced Abdalla with a militant known as Mohammed Abu Usama.  Al Shabaab led mediation in recent weeks to end fighting between two clans and continues to develop its governance capabilities in the region.[5]
  • Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in a livestock market in Afgoi town, Lower Shabelle region on May 4. The explosion wounded at least six people, including several Somali National Army (SNA) troops.[6]

[1] “U.N. peace talks on Yemen resume after three-day suspension: delegates,” Stephanie McGhee, Reuters, May 4, 2016,
[2] “UN to start inspecting shipments to Yemen,” Al Arabiya, May 4, 2016,; and “Ban welcomes launch of UN inspection to facilitate flow of commercial goods to Yemen,” UN News Centre, May 3, 2016,
[3] “Al Qaeda reached an agreement to leave from Abyan in a week,” Adenghad, May 4, 2016,  
[4] “Arrested terror suspect planned anthrax and large scale attacks in Kenya - police,” Goobjoog News,May 4, 2016, and Angira Zadock, “Kenya: Police foil interns plan to use anthrax in terror attack,”Daily Nation, May 4, 2016,  
[5] “Al Shabaab fired Agent in Lower Shabelle region,” Mogadishu Center for Research and Studies, May 4, 2016, Harun Maruf, Twitter, May 4, 2016,
[6] “Six injured in IED explosion Afgooye,” Goobjoog News, May 4, 2016,  
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