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 chief bombmaker may have been killed in 2017; al Houthi movement to resume targeting shipping lanes in the Red Sea;  Abu Abbas brigade surrenders headquarters in Taiz; Hadi government-aligned forces seize villages southwest of al Hudaydah city; Hadi government forces seized Hayran district center in northwestern Yemen; AQAP denies cutting deals with Saudi-led coalition

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks general’s convoy in Lower Shabelle region; Ethiopia and Sudan agree to deploy joint forces to border region

Yemen Security Brief

The chief bombmaker of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Ibrahim al Asiri, may have been killed in Yemen in the latter half of 2017, according to a UN monitoring report. UN Member States reported that Asiri may have been among the AQAP leaders killed amid counterterrorism operations that disrupted the group. Asiri developed the “underwear bomb” used in the failed bombing attempt on a commercial airliner approaching Detroit on December 25, 2009, as well as “printer bombs” that AQAP attempted to ship to the U.S. in 2010. AQAP has not released a eulogy for Asiri.[1]

The al Houthi movement announced that it will resume operations in the Red Sea area. The al Houthi movement had paused attacks on Red Sea targets in July after attacking two Saudi Aramco oil tankers in the Bab al Mandab Strait.[2]

The AQAP-linked Abu Abbas brigade surrendered buildings and its security headquarters to the Yemeni Army under the direction of the newly formed peace committee in Taiz city, southwestern Yemen on August 17. Protests began in Taiz city in response to violence carried out by militias loyal to the Islah party.[3]

The Southern Giant Brigades announced the complete liberation of local farms and al Houthi strongholds west of Bayt al Fiqh and southwest of al Hudaydah city on August 17. The Saudi-led coalition continued airstrikes on al Houthi forces in the vicinity of Bayt al Fiqh, however. The strikes reportedly killed 27 al Houthi fighters. The ongoing operation, which has intensified since August 12, has left 84,000 families homeless.[4]

Hadi government forces announced the complete liberation of the Hayran district center in Hajjah governorate in northwestern Yemen. The Yemeni Army also announced that it cut a critical supply line between al Hudaydah city and Haradh district to the north. The Saudi-led coalition also conducted airstrikes between the Abs and Hiran districts as part of this operation.[5]

AQAP denied cutting deals with the Saudi-led coalition in response to an August 7 Associated Press report. The report stated that the coalition paid off AQAP militants to vacate populated areas.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants attacked a convoy carrying former Somali National Army (SNA) deputy chief General Abdullahi Ali Aanood near Shalambood in Lower Shabelle region on August 17. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo replaced Aanood on August 16 as part of a larger reshuffle of security leadership.[7]

Ethiopia and Sudan signed an agreement to deploy joint forces along their shared border on August 17. The joint forces will deploy by December 2018 after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian and Sudanese troops currently deployed to the border region. The intent of the Joint Sudanese-Ethiopian Military Commission is to counter terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling, and the movement of rebel groups.[8]

[1] Barbara Starr, Paul Cruickshank, and Ryan Browne, “First on CNN: Al Qaeda’s master bomb maker may be dead, UN says,” CNN, August 16, 2018,; and “Letter dated 16 July 2018 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities addressed to the President of the Security Council,” UN Security Council, July 27, 2018,

[2] “The Houthis announce the resumption of their terrorist operations in the Red Sea,” Aden Lng, August 17, 2018,; “The Houthis announce resumption of terrorist operations in the Red Sea,” Hadramout, August 17, 2018,;

[3] “Taiz - Abu Abbas handed over security headquarters it controlled,” Yemen Akhbar, August 17, 2018, and “The Abu Abbas battalions choose a peaceful solution after facing Islah party crimes,” Hadramout, August 17, 2018,

[4] “The Giant Brigades announce the complete liberation of farms west of al Darayhimi,” Mareb Press, August 17, 2018,; “The Giant Brigades liberate farms and pockets of al Houthi militias west of al Darayhimi,” Aden Lng, August 17, 2018,; “The Emiratis leave 84,000 civilians homeless in al Darayhimi,” Hadramout, August 17, 2018,; “Coalition planes target the militia reinforcements in Bayt al Fiqh in al Hudaydah,” Barakish, August 17, 2018,; and “27 Houthis were killed in al Darayhimi and Bayt al Fiqh,” Barakish, August 17, 2018,

[5] “ The Yemen National Army was able to liberate the center of Hayran district in Hajjah governorate,” Hadramout, August 17, 2018,; Yemen Observer, Twitter, August 17, 2018,; “The Strategic Importance of the liberation of Hayran district in Hajjah Governorate,” Barakish, August 17, 2018,; “The National Army was able to liberate the center of Hayran district in Hajjah governorate,” Yemen Akhbar, August 17, 2018,

[6] “AQAP denies AP report of cooperating with Saudi-led coalition,” August 17, 2018, translation available by subscription at; and Maggie Michael, Trish Wilson, and Lee Keath, “AP Investigation: US allies, al-Qaida battle rebels in Yemen,” Associated Press, August 7, 2018,

[7] Harun Maruf, Twitter, August 17, 2018,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, August 16, 2018,

[8] Amare Asrat, “Ethiopian, Sudanese armies to deploy joint border forces,” Fanabc, August 17, 2018,; and  Mohammed Amin, “Force to be tasked with combating terrorism, rebel activity, illegal migration and human trafficking,” Anadolu, August 16, 2018,

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