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.{{authorBox.message}}

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Yemen:  AQAP confirms emir’s death and announces his successor; Saudi-led coalition disrupts al Houthi attack in Red Sea; US Customs and Border Protection arrests three Yemeni citizens in San Diego, CA

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM conducts two airstrikes targeting al Shabaab; Oromo Liberation Army bombs Ethiopian political rally; al Shabaab targets AMISOM base with mortars; Somali South West State forces attack al Shabaab tax collection site

Yemen Security Brief:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) confirmed the death of its emir Qasim al Raymi in an audio speech released on February 23. A US airstrike killed Raymi in northern Yemen in late January. Hamid bin Hamoud al Tamimi, an AQAP religious official, announced Khalid bin Umar Batarfi as AQAP’s new leader. Batarfi is a longtime spokesman and senior official for AQAP who has recently overseen the group’s external operations.[1]

The Saudi-led coalition naval forces stopped an attack by the al Houthi movement in the southern Red Sea on February 23. The coalition forces destroyed an unmanned boat carrying explosives that the militants launched from Yemen’s western al Hudaydah governorate.[2]

US Customs and Border Protection arrested three Yemeni citizens trying to enter the US illegally in a vessel in San Diego, California on February 21. The port of San Diego’s Joint Harbor Operations Center stated that Yemeni migrants are uncommon on the southern US border.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted two airstrikes targeting al Shabaab compounds and militants near the towns of Saakow and Dujuuma in Somalia’s southern Middle Jubba region on February 22 and February 23 respectively. The strike near Saakow killed two militants, injured one, and destroyed a compound. The strike near Dujuuma injured three militants and destroyed a compound. These are the seventh and eighth airstrikes AFRICOM has conducted in Somalia this month.[4]

Ethiopian militants from the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) conducted a bomb attack targeting a pro-government political rally in the town of Ambo in the Oromia region west of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on February 23. The OLA is an armed splinter of opposition party Oromo Liberation Front. The attack injured 29 people. The attack follows the assassination of an Ethiopian security official in the nearby town of Burayu on February 21.[5]

Al Shabaab fighters launched a mortar and direct fire attack on a Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base near the town of Mahaday in the Middle Shabelle region north of Mogadishu on February 24. Neither al Shabaab nor AMISOM have commented on the attack. Al Shabaab most recently attacked a Ugandan AMISOM base near Qoryoley village in Somalia’s southern Lower Shabelle region on February 19.[6]

Regional security forces from Somalia’s South West State attacked and seized an al Shabaab tax collection site in the village of Buur Heybe in Somalia’s south-central Bay region on February 22. The local forces killed three al Shabaab militants and seized 800 bags of maize extorted from local farmers. The Somali police conducted a similar operation against al Shabaab tax collectors in the Middle Shabelle region on February 21.[7]


[1] “AQAP confirms death of leader Qassim al-Rimi, announces successor,” SITE intelligence group, February 23, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; “Letter dated 20 January 2020 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities address to the President of the Security Council,” UN, January 20, 2020, https://undocs.org/S/2020/53; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – February 06, 2020,” February 06, 2020, Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-06-2020.

[2] “Saudi-led coalition says it foiled Red Sea attack by Yemen’s Houthis,” Reuters, February 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-coalition/saudi-led-coalition-says-foiled-red-sea-attack-by-yemens-houthis-idUSKCN20H080.

[3] “CBP arrests three Yemeni nationals arriving in San Diego by boat,” The Maritime Executive, February 24, 2020, https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/cbp-arrests-three-yemeni-nationals-arriving-in-san-diego-by-boat.

[4] “Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM target al-Shabaab,” AFRICOM, February 23, 2020, https://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/32594/federal-government-of-somalia-africom-target-al-shabaab; and “Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM conduct airstrike against al-Shabaab,” AFRICOM, February 23, 2020, https://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/32593/federal-government-of-somalia-africom-conduct-airstrike-against-al-shabaab.

[5] “29 injured in 'bomb attack' at pro-Abiy rally,” Daily Nation, February 24, 2020, https://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Ethiopia--29-injured-in--bomb-attack--at-pro-Abiy-rally/1066-5466638-ml7h25/index.html.

[6] Abdirisak M Tuuryare, “Mortar and gun attack hit AU soldiers' base in Somalia,” Mareeg, February 24, 2020, https://mareeg.com/mortar-and-gun-attack-hit-au-soldiers-base-in-somalia/.

[7] “Southwest regional forces seize 800 bags of maize forcibly taken by al-Shabab from farmers,” Goobjoob, February 23, 2020, http://goobjoog.com/english/southwest-regional-forces-seize-800-bags-of-maize-forcibly-taken-by-al-shabab-from-farmers/; and Pamela Makadsi, Minatullah Alobaidi, and Sam Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 21, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 21, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-21-2020.

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Yemen: Saudi-led coalition claims interception of al Houthi missiles; Saudi-led coalition seizes boat carrying explosives in the Red Sea; Hadi government forces claim al Houthi militants bombed ICRC headquarters

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab burns down Kenyan police reservist’s home; Somali police and intelligence agents ambush al Shabaab tax collectors

Yemen Security Brief:

The Saudi-led coalition claimed it intercepted several missiles fired by the al Houthi movement from the Yemeni capital Sana’a toward the city of Yanbu in al Madinah province on February 21. Al Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarea released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack and stated that this attack was in retaliation for the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in al Jawf governorate that killed nearly 30 civilians on February 14.[1]

The Saudi-led coalition stated that it seized a boat carrying explosives in the Red Sea before reaching the port of al Hudaydah in eastern Yemen.[2]

Hadi government forces said al Houthi militants shelled the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other international organizations with artillery in al Durayhimi District in southern al Hudaydah governorate on February 21. The al Houthi movement has not yet claimed this attack.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

Al Shabaab burned down a house belonging to a Kenyan police reservist near Ijara in eastern Kenya’s Garissa County on February 20. Al Shabaab began assassinations and arson attacks targeting the Kenyan National Police Reserve two weeks ago in the area around Ijara.[4]

The Somali National Police and National Intelligence and Security Agency ambushed al Shabaab tax collectors near the town of Balad in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region on February 21. The Somali officers killed two militants and injured three others while they collected taxes from a civilian bus. Al Shabaab gathers revenue from an extensive taxation network.[5]


[1]“Saudi Arabia says it intercepted missiles fired from Yemen,” al Jazeera, February 21, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/saudi-arabia-intercepted-missiles-fired-yemen-200221062515809.html; and “The armed forces announce the implementation of the third deterrence balance operation in Saudi Arabia,” al Manar, February 1, 2020, https://almanar.com.lb/6315542; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review- February 18, 2020,” Critical Threats  Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 18, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-18-2020.      

[2] “Seizing explosives in the Red Sea was on its way to the Houthis,” al Arabiya, February 21, 2020, https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/yemen/2020/02/21/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B6%D8%A8%D8%B7-%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%B1-%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%82%D9%87%D8%A7-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86.

[3] “Houthi militia bombed the headquarters of the Red Cross in Hodeidah,” al Arabiya, February 21, 2020, https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/yemen/2020/02/21/%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%81-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9; and “Al Houthi militias target the headquarters of the International Red Cross in Al-Drahamy,” al Amalika, February 21, 2020, https://alamalika.net/site/2020/02/21/%d9%85%d9%84%d9%8a%d8%b4%d9%8a%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ad%d9%88%d8%ab%d9%8a-%d8%aa%d8%b3%d8%aa%d9%87%d8%af%d9%81-%d9%85%d9%82%d8%b1-%d8%a5%d9%82%d8%a7%d9%85%d8%a9-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b5%d9%84%d9%8a/.

[4] “Suspected Shabaab attackers torch reservist’s home,” Daily Nation, February 21, 2020, https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/garissa/Suspected-Shabaab-attackers-torch-reservist-s-home/3444784-5463444-jfcoh5/index.html; Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 13, 20,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 13, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review.

[5] @BalcadD, “Our brave forces @HSNQ_NISA and police have ambushed AS terrorists who were collecting money from innocent civilians at Daniga village. 2 have been killed and 3 injured!” Balcad (Bal’ad) District, Twitter, February 21, 2020, https://twitter.com/BalcadD/status/1230882561792061440.

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Yemen: US Department of Defense announces new Iranian anti-aircraft missile seized in the Arabian Sea; Hadi government forces shoot down al Houthi drone in al Jawf governorate

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM airstrike targets al Shabaab near Mogadishu; Kenyan al Shabaab fighter surrenders to Mandera police

Yemen Security Brief:

US defense officials announced on February 19 that Iran developed a new anti-aircraft missile and attempted to deliver it to the al Houthi movement in Yemen. A US military official assessed that the weapons can disrupt US defensive measures and shoot down American military helicopters. The US Navy seized these weapons bound for the al Houthi militants in the Arabian Sea on February 9.[1]

Hadi government forces claimed to have shot down an al Houthi drone in al Mahzamat in Yemen’s northern al Jawf governorate on February 19. Hadi government forces said they have shot down several al Houthi drones in al Jawf and Ma’rib governorates since clashes resumed in mid-January.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

A US Africa Command airstrike killed three al Shabaab militants in Wadajir district in the Somali capital Mogadishu on February 19. The strike occurred hours after al Shabaab launched twin attacks on African Union and Somali military bases in the Lower Shabelle region near Mogadishu, killing more than 20 Somali soldiers.[3]

An al Shabaab militant surrendered to Kenyan police forces in Mandera in northeastern Kenya on February 20. Local police assessed that the fighter was a Kenyan national from the Rhamu area in northern Mandera County.[4]


[1] John Ismay and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “New Iranian Missiles Pose Threat to U.S. Aircraft in Yemen, Pentagon Say,” New York Times, February 19, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/19/us/iran-missiles-yemen.html; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review-February 13, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 13, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-13-2020; and Cory Dickstein, “CENTCOM: Weapons shipment from Iran seized in Arabian Sea on the way to Houthi rebels in Yemen,” Stars and Stripes, February 19,2020, https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/centcom-weapons-shipment-from-iran-seized-in-arabian-sea-was-on-the-way-to-houthi-rebels-in-yemen-1.619374.

[2] “Hadi government forces announced the shooting down of an al Houthi drone in al Jawf,” al Mashhad al Yemeni, February 20, 2020, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/158133; and Jessica Kocan, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – January 30, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, January 30, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-january-30-2020.

[3] “Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM conduct airstrike against al-Shabaab terrorists,” AFRICOM, February 19, 2020, https://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/32588/federal-government-of-somalia-africom-conduct-airstrike-against-al-shabaab-terrorists; and Minatullah Alobaidi, Pamela Makadsi, and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 19, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 19, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-february-19-2020.

[4] “Al-Shabaab militant surrenders in Mandera,” Daily Nation, February 20, 2020, https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/mandera/Al-Shabaab-militant-surrenders-in-Mandera/1183298-5462718-9qtkf1z/index.html.

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