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: al Houthis release hostages and seek to resume peace talks; coalition airstrikes target Sana’a, al Bayda, and Mocha; AQAP targets al Houthis in central Yemen
Horn of Africa: Kenyan forces under AMISOM kill five al Shabaab militants in clashes in Somalia’s Gedo region; Kenyan Defense Forces kill three al Shabaab militants and destroy their camp in Lamu region; al Shabaab militants overrun Somali National Army (SNA) base in Yaqbari-wayne in Lower Shabelle region
Yemen Security Brief
- The White House confirmed on September 20 that the al Houthis released two American hostages, Scott Darden and Sam Farran, who had been held captive in Yemen since March. The Omani government facilitated the prisoner release, which also included a Brit and three Saudi nationals. The freeing of the hostages may be a goodwill gesture intended to support the al Houthis’ claims that they are willing to participate in negotiations. Al Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi reiterated his support for a negotiated political settlement in a televised address on September 20. An al Houthi delegation traveled to Muscat, Oman on September 20, but new peace talks between the al Houthis and the exiled Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi have not been confirmed at this time.
- Yemenis demonstrated in Sana’a’s streets on September 21 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the September 21 revolution, when the Hadi government signed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA) after negotiating with the al Houthis. Separately, the Saudi-led coalition continued an intensified airstrike campaign on the al Houthi-held capital of Yemen on September 19. The coalition targeted the Interior Ministry and the presidential complex. Coalition warplanes also struck al Houthi military targets in al Bayda governorate and Mocha city in Taiz governorate.
- Ansar al Sharia, the militant arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), claimed credit for a series of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on al Houthi targets in Ibb and al Bayda governorates, according to pro-AQAP Twitter sources. The group also claimed responsibility for the assassination of an al Houthi leader in al Hudaydah city. AQAP has taken advantage of the security vacuum in central Yemen to expand its influence throughout the region.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants overran and looted a Somali National Army (SNA) military base in Yaqbari-wayne, in the Lower Shabelle region on September 18. Military officials and witnesses stated that 12 SNA soldiers and an unspecified number of militants were killed in the attack. After seizing the base, an al Shabaab commander reportedly threatened the town’s residents, saying that “the rule of Sharia law will be back soon.”
- Kenyan soldiers fighting for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) killed five members of al Shabaab in two separate clashes on September 19, in Somalia’s Gedo region. The first clash occurred in the town of Damasa, where AMISOM forces engaged militants in a firefight, killing three. The second clash occurred in the town of Taraka when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated prematurely, and AMISOM forces were able to successfully pursue the militants, killing two. Military officials stated that AMISOM forces suffered no casualties in these incidents.
- Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) operating in Kenya’s northeastern Lamu region killed three al Shabaab militants and destroyed one of their camps on September 17. The militants initially attacked the KDF forces, but were thwarted and killed while fleeing to their camp. This incident is part of the ongoing Kenyan military operation to clear al Shabaab’s presence from the Boni Forest area situated on the Kenyan-Somali border.