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: Yemeni pilots join airstrike campaign; Saudi foreign minister says Yemen conflict may end soon; coalition airstrike hits factory workers in Taiz; coalition airdrops weapons in Taiz; suspected ISIS militants bomb Aden University
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab claims to take hostages from crashed plane in Omar Beere, Lower Shabelle region; Kenyan police uncover new al Shabaab cell in Wajir County, Kenya; al Shabaab reportedly arrests suspected ISIS defectors in southern and central Somalia
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemeni pilots flew airstrike missions as part of the Saudi-led coalition for the first time since the coalition airstrike campaign began in March, according to reports. The Yemeni pilots took off from recently restored al Anad airbase in Lahij governorate, southern Yemen and bombed al Houthi targets in Taiz and Ma’rib governorates on October 28 and 29. Emirati forces are training Yemeni pilots at al Anad.
- Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said on October 28 that the Yemen conflict may end soon, citing the acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 by the al Houthis and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as a key indicator of an upcoming settlement. Al Jubeir also praised the coalition’s successes on the ground, claiming that coalition-backed forces have recaptured almost all of the territory seized by the al Houthis. Anne Patterson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there are “some hopeful signs” that the Saudi-led coalition intends to end the conflict soon. Patterson said that the Saudis understand that their air campaign will continue to “turn the Yemeni population against them” and complicate future attempts to stabilize and rebuild the country. The UN will initiate peace talks intended to end the Yemen conflict at the end of this month.
- A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a bus carrying factory workers in Taiz city, southwestern Yemen on October 29. The airstrike campaign’s high rate of civilian casualties continues to draw international criticism following Saudi Arabia’s denial that coalition warplanes bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Yemen on October 26. The Saudi ambassador to the UN said that his October 27 admission that the strike was a coalition “mistake” was taken out of context.
- The Saudi-led coalition airdropped a second weapons shipment in as many days to anti-al Houthi forces in Taiz governorate in southwestern Yemen on October 28. The shipment reportedly included rifles, an anti-tank weapon, and armor-piercing shells. Local residents reported an explosion near Jabal Sabr in Taiz following the airdrop. Pro-coalition sources reported that an artillery shipment crash-landed and caused the explosion, while pro-al Houthi sources reported that al Houthi forces shot down a coalition warplane during the airdrop.
- Suspected Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants bombed Aden University campus on October 28. The bomb, thrown by militants on a motorcycle, shattered windows but caused no casualties. Islamist militants had threatened to attack the university if it did not segregate by gender.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab claims to be holding up to twelve people hostage following a plane crash on October 28, near Omar Beere in the Lower Shabelle region. The plane is registered to Kenya and is believed to have been transporting military supplies and foreign security contractors to a Somali National Army (SNA) training camp in the Lower Shabelle region. The nationalities of the passengers remain unknown, although al Shabaab claims that most of the hostages are foreigners.
- Kenyan police uncovered a new al Shabaab cell focused on recruiting and conducting terror attacks within Kenya’s borders. The group is referred to as the “Mustapha Atto Network,” and is believed to operate in Kenya’s northwestern Wajir County. Mohamed Kunow Yussuf, who was previously involved in smuggling arms across the Kenyan-Somali border, is the leader of the cell. On October 29, Kenyan security forces began circulating Yussuf’s photograph to residents of Wajir County in hopes of locating him.
- Al Shabaab militants detained by Kenyan security forces claim that al Shabaab is arresting a high number of its members who are suspected of trying to defect to ISIS. The ongoing arrests are said to be occurring throughout large swathes of the group’s territory, with many of those arrested being foreigners. The internal unrest is believed to be caused in part by the public defection to ISIS by Abdul Qadir Mumin, a previously high-ranking religious leader of al Shabaab.