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Weekly Intelligence Report 1st March – 7th March

Indian Ocean HRA

Overview

The threat of piracy still exists in the waters of the Southern Red Sea/ Bab el Mandeb, Gulf of Aden including Yemen and the northern Somali coast, Arabian Sea/Gulf of Oman and off the eastern and southern Somali coastline. Although the opportunity for attacks has reduced, Somali pirates continue to possess the motivation and capability to carry out attacks.

There have been unconfirmed reports from the RMIFC (Regional Maritime Infusion Centre) that over the last three (3) months Pirate Groups have been operating in the territorial waters of Puntland between Bosaso and Aluula.

Reported incidents HRA 1st – 7th March

There have been no reported piracy incidents reported in the High Risk Area (HRA) during this reporting period.

Ongoing threats

It is highly unlikely that international shipping is being directly targeted by combatants in the Yemen conflict, but there remains a risk of misidentification and miscalculation. The situation is fluid and the threats to shipping can change rapidly. Ship operators should carry out detailed risk assessments for each voyage into the area using the latest threat information.

piracy risk table

Considerations:

Masters are advised to remain vigilant at all times inside the High-Risk Area (HRA) and follow the guidance and protective measures, as set down in BMP5. In the past, it has been reported that Pirate Attack Groups (PAG) conducted ‘soft approaches’ on merchant ships transiting the HRA. Skiffs have been known to approach vessels in order to probe the reaction of the crew and any possible security teams on-board. If the pirate approach does not elicit a response, the pirates may then proceed with an attack, using additional skiffs. The guidance in BMP5 remains relevant and merchant vessels transiting the High-Risk Area are encouraged to comply with its three fundamentals; register at MSCHOA, report to UKMTO and implement Self Protection Methods.

Yemen

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamed Farmajo restored their countries’ diplomatic ties during a meeting mediated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, on March 6. The Kenyan government suspended diplomatic relations with Somalia on February 19 after accusing the Somali Federal Government (SFG) of auctioning oil blocks in disputed territory. Kenya and Somalia did not negotiate a resolution to the oil dispute and stated that the International Court of Justice would arbitrate the case.

Somalia and Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on improving security cooperation during a meeting in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, on March 3. The Egyptian Interior Ministry stated that it looks forward to assisting in training Somali security forces and continuing information sharing.

A deadly explosion hit central Mogadishu on March 5, killing at least two people and wounding five, local media reported. The car bomb was detonated at a checkpoint close to the presidential palace in the Somali capital, early reports claimed. The extremist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it targeted a checkpoint guarding a main entrance to Villa Somalia, the residence of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

Islamist al Shabaab fighters set off a bomb outside the Hotel Maka Al-Mukarama on February 28, before retreating to an adjacent building, where a firefight lasting into the next day then raged. Another bomb exploded later about 1 kilometre away. Rescuers said the number of dead from the first explosion, which destroyed several buildings, totalled 25 with 131 wounded. The attack comes days after US forces in Somalia stepped up air strikes against the group, which is
fighting to dislodge a Western-backed government protected by peacekeepers.

Al Shabaab occupied Fafadun town in Gedo region in southwestern Somalia on March 2 after Kenyan forces from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) withdrew from a base in the town. Al Shabaab militants entered the town without a fight after Kenyan forces withdrew to Giriley village, which is also in Gedo region and is closer to the Kenyan border. The Kenyan military did not provide an explanation for the withdrawal. Kenyan forces have controlled Fafadun town since 2012.

Somalia

A coalition of Hadi government and Saudi-led coalition supporters will hold its first conference in Cairo, Egypt on March 6 to determine its internal structure and its plan for action for resolving the southern issue. Yemeni Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Southern Movement Ali al Gharib, the President of the National Conference of the People of the South Mohammad Ali Ahmed, and the Deputy Director of the Office of the Yemeni President Ahmed al Issa will reportedly attend the conference. Other political party leaders, southern Yemeni military commanders, independent southern leaders, and civil society members will also attend the conference. The coalition was founded in April 2018 in order to counter the Political Transitional Council for the South (STC), which opposes the Hadi government.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Foreign Minister Khalid al Yamani in Aden city in southern Yemen on March 3 as part of Hunt’s three-day trip to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the UAE. Hunt warned that the Yemen peace process is in serious jeopardy in a speech in Aden. His visit was the first visit to Yemen by a Western foreign minister since the civil war began in 2015 and the first visit by a UK Foreign Secretary since 1996. Hunt also met with President Hadi, Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Assaf, and Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al Jubeir in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 2. Hunt stated in Riyadh that a lack of trust has led the al Houthi movement to delay its withdrawal from Salif and Ras Issa ports in al Hudaydah governorate in western Yemen. The  planned al Houthi withdrawals constitute the first phase of a UN-brokered agreement to demilitarize al Hudaydah city.

A senior member of the Transitional Political Council for the South (STC), Ahmed Omar bin Farid, stated on March 1 that southern Yemen demands the right of self-determination as a part of the Yemen peace process. Bin Farid also stated that southern Yemen will fight back if its demands are ignored. Bin Farid stressed that southern forces are under the command of the Saudi-led coalition and not that of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Al Houthi fighters claimed to target Saudi troops with a Badr 1-P ballistic missile near the Alab border crossing in Asir region in southern Saudi Arabia on March 4. Al Houthi media also claimed that the group fired three Zilzal 1 ballistic missiles at Saudi troops near the Alab border crossing and three other missiles at Saudi troops in al Sudais in Najran region in southern Saudi Arabia on March 3.

It is highly unlikely that international shipping is being directly targeted by combatants in the Yemen conflict, but there remains a risk of misidentification and miscalculation. The situation is fluid and the threats to shipping can change rapidly. Ship operators should carry out detailed risk assessments for each voyage into the area using the latest threat information.

© Neptune P2P Group 2017