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: 72-hour ceasefire in Yemen begins; Iran increases weapons smuggling to al Houthi-Saleh forces through Oman; suspected AQAP militants attack security forces in Zinjibar and Lawder districts, Abyan governorate
Horn of Africa: Puntland and Galmudug security forces break ceasefire in Galkayo, Mudug region; al Shabaab claims defection of six Jubbaland security personnel; Jubbaland and Southwest State Upper House elections conclude; Somali security forces release al Jazeera journalists
Yemen Security Brief
- A UN-brokered 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire began in Yemen on October 20 at 23:59 Arabia Standard Time (AST). Al Houthi-Saleh forces reportedly clashed with Hadi government forces along active frontlines in Hajjah, Taiz, Lahij, Sa’ada and Ma’rib governorates after the ceasefire began on October 20. Saudi-led coalition warplanes continue to circle above Sana’a but have not bombed the capital city since the start of the ceasefire, according to local residents. Saudi-led coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri stated that the ceasefire directives “will take time” to reach combatants in high-conflict areas. Asiri warned that the Saudi-led coalition will take “appropriate action” in response to any ceasefire violations by al Houthi-Saleh forces. Al Houthi-Saleh forces spokesman Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman criticized the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks on al Houthi-Saleh territory hours before the Yemeni ceasefire on October 19. Luqman claimed the Saudi-led coalition’s conditional support for the ceasefire is an attempt to evade “legal and moral responsibilities” for any future attacks. The ceasefire is holding despite reported clashes.
- Iran increased overland weapons smuggling to the al Houthi-Saleh faction through Oman in recent months, according to U.S. officials. Omani officials denied the accusation that Iran is exploiting Oman’s weak border security to smuggle weapons into Yemen. General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said that Iran “play[ed] a role” in a series of missile attacks on the USS Mason in the Red Sea in October. Iran officials have vehemently denied any involvement in the attacks, calling U.S. accusations “false, paranoid, and inappropriate.”
- Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked security checkpoints in Zinjibar and Lawder districts in Abyan governorate on October 19 and 20. AQAP militants reportedly killed five al Hizam forces in Zinjibar district on October 20. AQAP militants fired mortars at al Hizam forces on a road between Jebel and Lawder districts on October 19, according to local sources. Al Hizam forces reportedly killed seven AQAP militants during clashes following an AQAP attack near a security checkpoint in Lawder district on October 20.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Galmudug State forces engaged Puntland Security Forces (PSF) in Galkayo town in Mudug region on October 20. The clashes ended days of relative peace established by a ceasefire last week. Galmudug and Puntland state frequently clash over disputed land in the northern Mudug region. The most recent violence broke out over a September 28 U.S. airstrike that killed 14 Galmudug security personnel. Galmudug officials claim Puntland intelligence services provided the faulty intelligence.
- Al Shabaab released photos of six Jubbaland State security forces, who al Shabaab alleged defected in Jilib town in Middle Jubba region, on October 18. The soldiers are pictured in camouflage fatigues in front of a black al Shabaab flag. The soldiers’ heads are bowed and the photo appears coerced.
- Jubbaland State and Southwest State concluded Upper House elections on October 19. Jubbaland elected seven men and one woman, failing to meet the thirty percent threshold for female representation required by the constitution. Southwest State elections ended when five candidates withdrew abruptly for undisclosed reasons. The international community has pressured Somalia to bar candidates with conflicting allegiances. Galmudug State elected a former warlord on October 16, despite the UN’s objection. Jubbaland State disallowed a former member of the Islamic Courts Union from its elections.
- Somali security forces released three al Jazeera journalists on October 19. Security forces arrested the journalists in Mogadishu on October 18 on charges of interviewing al Shabaab leadership. Officials claim that the journalists entered the country without notifying authorities. Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2016 Report lists Somalia’s treatment of press as “not free.”