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: Aid organizations respond to Cyclone Chapala; UN sources say detained contractors are Americans; popular resistance fighters storm presidential palace in Aden; IED targets al Houthi checkpoint in Sana’a
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab ambushes AMISOM convoy near Halgan, Hiraan region; KDF soldiers under AMISOM and IJA security forces attack SNA base near Kismayo, Lower Jubba region; SNA and AMISOM suspend telephone service in Bardhere, Gedo region; al Shabaab spokesperson issues warnings would-be pro-ISIS defectors
Yemen Security Brief
- Cyclone Chapala made landfall in Yemen on November 2 and 3, displacing 40,000 people from coastal areas on Socotra Island and in Shabwah and Hadramawt governorates in eastern Yemen. The storm killed three people on Socotra and one in al Mukalla, Hadramawt. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has governed the city through proxies since April, and the group’s ability to manage disaster response could either undermine or strengthen its influence in the region. Three Omani and one Emirati cargo plane delivered food, tents, and blankets to Socotra on November 4. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) activated a cyclone response plan to work with “de facto local authorities” and utilize aid delivery routes along the coastal roads between Aden and al Mukalla. The UN World Food Programme delivered approximately 30 metric tons of food aid to al Mukalla, and the World Health Organization delivered trauma kits and fuel to health facilities in the city. Residents of neighboring Shabwah governorate complained that local authorities failed to respond to the crisis.
- Anonymous UN officials said on that two American contractors were detained at the Sana’a airport on October 20. The UN has not confirmed the contractors’ nationality, but a spokesman stated that the contractors entered Sana’a on a UN aircraft from Djibouti and that they work for a company that manages UN facilities in Sana’a. The anonymous officials said that the UN offices in question are located at the U.S. embassy in Sana’a. U.S. State Department officials acknowledged the reports but refused to comment, citing privacy considerations.
- Popular resistance forces clashed with presidential palace guards at al Ma’shiq Palace in Aden on November 3. The popular resistance fighters reportedly stormed the palace, manned by troops loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s son, to protest three months of unpaid salaries. Emirati forces mobilized eight armored vehicles to the palace to end the standoff.
- An improvised explosive device (IED) exploded at an al Houthi checkpoint in eastern Sana’a on November 4, killing at least two people. ISIS Wilayat Sana’a has claimed credit for three IED attacks on al Houthi positions in the past three weeks.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed a convoy of the Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) contingent on the outskirts of Halgan, Hiraan region. The ambush occurred on November 4, and led to an extended clash between the two sides. Somali National Army (SNA) officials confirmed the ambush and subsequent clash, although the outcome of the attack is unknown.
- Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) operating under AMISOM, along with Interim Jubbaland Administration (IJA) security forces clashed with SNA forces on the outskirts of Kismayo, the Lower Jubba region’s capital. KDF are reported to have initiated the attack on November 4 by launching mortars at a military base manned by SNA soldiers. The mortar attack was followed by a ground assault by IJA security forces. At least two people are reported dead as a result of the clash. SNA officials claim that soldiers in the base successfully repulsed the attack. Jubbaland State officials have yet to comment on the incident.
- SNA and AMISOM forces suspended telephone service in Bardhere, a town located in the Gedo region. The suspension of service began on November 4, and is believed to be in preparation of a clearing operation in the town and surrounding villages. Bardhere was previously a major stronghold for al Shabaab until it was liberated by government forces in July 2015, and it is believed that many al Shabaab members still reside in the area.
- A prominent al Shabaab spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dhere, issued a warning to Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)-sympathizers within its own ranks, stating that they are no different than other “enemies” that the group is fighting. Ali Dhere reiterated that dissent within the ranks of al Shabaab will not be tolerated. This statement is likely in reference to the recent defection of Abdi Qadir Mumin, the religious leader of an al Shabaab cell operating in northern Somalia.