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: AQAP renews threat of international attacks; AQAP-linked militants clash with pro-Hadi government and Islah forces in Taiz city; U.S. Ambassador to Yemen says Hadi government and al Houthi movement willing to attend September UN-led consultations without preconditions; STC National Assembly reiterates threat to attack al Hudaydah if excluded from UN consultations

Horn of Africa: U.S.-backed Somali forces detain al Shabaab militants in Middle Shabelle region; Somali President reshuffles security leaders; Somali President to meet Djiboutian President; AMISOM and SNA begin joint operations against al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region; SNA forces clash with al Shabaab in Lower Jubba region

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) renewed its threat to conduct international attacks with the publication of a new series titled, “Why are we fighting America?” An AQAP-affiliated group referred to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the publication and alluded to future installments of the series that will encourage similar attacks.[1]

Militants from an AQAP-linked Salafi militia, Abu Abbas, clashed with pro- Hadi government and Islah party forces in Taiz city, southwest Yemen from August 11 to 15. Violence began after Abu Abbas militants allegedly assassinated civilians and pro-Hadi government military personnel. Militants from outside the city were also seen arriving at the Abu Abbas headquarters in Taiz city. The clashes killed and wounded at least 36 people, including children. Clashes ended after President Hadi directed the formation of a security committee to maintain stability in Taiz. The deputy commander of Abu Abbas, Adel al Azzi, announced the complete withdrawal of all militants and requested two days to leave the city. He accused fighters affiliated with the Islah party and the Muslim Brotherhood of breaking security agreements brokered by the Hadi government and claimed that Abu Abbas forces withdrew to avoid increased violence.[2]

U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller stated on August 15 that the Hadi government and al Houthi representatives are prepared to participate in talks without preconditions following meetings with both factions in Cairo, Egypt. Ambassador Tueller stated that the September 6 UN-led consultations will “be extremely modest” but will have positive results. Tueller referenced the release of prisoners and detainees, commercial flights from Sana’a, and the Yemeni currency rate as possible topics for the consultations. Al Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam stated on August 16 that the Saudi-led coalition has no interest in prisoner exchange deals or human rights and blamed the Hadi government for mishandling the printing of the Yemeni riyal.[3]

The acting secretary general of the National Assembly for the Transitional Political Council for the South (STC), Fadhl al Jaadi, reiterated the STC’s threat to seize al Hudaydah if the UN Envoy to Yemen and the Hadi government continue to ignore its demands. Jaadi stated at a special session on August 16 that the UN-led peace process in Yemen will fail and the STC has “the full capacity” to spoil the UN consultations.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali special forces reportedly accompanied by U.S. troops attacked al Shabaab in several villages near Bal’ad in Middle Shabelle region on August 14. Somali forces arrested 10 members of an al Shabaab cell in Basra village.[5]

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo reshuffled top security officials on August 16. Farmajo named General Dahir Aden Elmi as the new head of the Somali National Army (SNA), the position from which former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud dismissed Elmi in March 2015. Farmajo selected General Odawaa Yusuf Rageh as the deputy SNA chief and Hassan Nur Ol-u-Jog as the Navy commander. General Zakia Hassan Ahmed and former Criminal Investigation Department chief Said Ahmed Kadiya became the deputy police force commanders. Farmajo also appointed Amina Sa’ed Ali as his chief of staff as the first woman to hold the position, replacing close Farmajo ally Fahad Yasin. Yasin will become the deputy director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).[6]

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo arrived in Djibouti for an official visit with Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh on August 16. The meeting comes amid tensions between the two countries over Somalia’s call for the lifting of UN sanctions on Eritrea.[7]

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army (SNA) announced a joint operation against al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region on August 15. The operation will pursue militants that fled northward. AMISOM forces clashed with al Shabaab in Bulo Marer district in Lower Shabelle region on August 16.[8]

SNA forces clashed with al Shabaab fighters in Muse Haji and Arare in Lower Jubba region on August 15. The SNA claimed to kill 11 al Shabaab militants, including four commanders who were planning an attack in the area.[9]

[1] Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, August 15, 2018,
[2] “Abu Abbas announces full withdrawal of all its soldiers from the city of Taiz,” Al Mashad, August 15, 2018,; “A heavy deployment of militants loyal to Abu Abbas spread in the streets of Taiz, al Mashad, August 15, 2018,; “An intense and unpopular deployment of militants loyal to Abu Abbas is spreading in the the streets of Taiz now,” Yemen Akhbar, August 15, 2018,; “The Muslim Brotherhood in Taiz evicts the Salafists from their homes the same way they removed the Houthis in Damag,” Hadramout, August 16, 2018,; and Yemen Observer, Twitter, August 15, 2018,
[3] “Houthis: Future consultations are an update of ideas and do not lead to solutions,” Al Masdar Online, August 16, 2018,; and “U.S. ambassador to Yemen ‘optimistic’ about Geneva talks,” al Arabiya, August 16, 2018,
[4] “National Assembly of the Transitional Council holds its special meeting in Aden (text of al Jaadi’s speech),” Aden Lng, August 16, 2018,
[5] “Somalia, US forces arrest 10 militants in Basra operation,”, August 16, 2018,
[6] “Somali president reshuffles top security officials,” Xinhua, August 16, 2018,; “Farmajo shakes security chiefs to rump up war on al-Shabab,” Radio Shabelle, August 16, 2018,; “President Farmajo announces major security reshuffle,” Hiiraan, August 16, 2018,; and  “Women take charge at Villa Somalia and police in new changes,” Goobjoog, August 16, 2018,
[7] “Somali President arrives in Djibouti,” Mareeg, August 16, 2018,; and “President arrives in Djibouti to mend ties,” Garowe, August 16, 2018,
[8] “Somali, AU forces launch joint operation to flush out al-Shabab,” Xinhua, August 16, 2018,; and “AMISOM and al Shabaab clash with heavy fighting,” Mareeg, August 16, 2018,
[9] “Somali national army troops kill 11 al-Shabaab combatants in southern region,” Intelligence Briefs, August 16, 2018,; and “Somali army kills 11 militants in southern region,” Hiiraan, August 16, 2018,

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