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: U.S. officials confident AQAP bomb maker killed in drone strike; Hadi government and allied forces repulse al Houthi attack in Hajjah governorate; Hadi government forces advance through Sawadiyah district, al Bayda governorate; Hadi government forces seize Mt. Thamran, Taiz governorate; al Houthis claim ballistic missile launch on Saudi-led coalition operational headquarters in western Yemen; al Houthis claim short-range ballistic missile launch in western Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab claims attack on U.S. and Somali forces in Lower Shabelle region; Ethiopia arrests more than 170 individuals during ethnic clashes in Oromia region; Ethiopia denies reports of troop withdrawals from Eritrean border; Mozambican authorities arrest jihadist leader in Cabo Delgado province

Yemen Security Brief

CBS News reported on August 20 that U.S. officials are confident that a 2017 U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed the chief bombmaker of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Ibrahim al Asiri designed the bomb for the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing on a U.S. airliner in 2009. U.S. officials considered al Asiri one of the most dangerous terrorists in al Qaeda.[1]

Al Houthi forces attacked a base used by Hadi government forces in Hayran district, Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen on August 21. Hadi government forces and Popular Resistance forces claimed to successfully repulse the attack and kill 30 al Houthi fighters.[2]

Hadi government forces and Popular Resistance forces advanced against al Houthi forces in al Sawadiyah district, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on August 21. Hadi government forces cleared al Houthi positions in Khadar, al Shubakah, and al Yisbil in Sawadiyah. Hadi government forces claimed to kill 23 al Houthi militants.[3]

Hadi government forces of the Yemeni Army 5th Brigade seized Mt. Thamran in Taiz governorate from al Houthi forces on August 21. Hadi government sources claimed that the operation fully cleared al Houthi forces from 12 sites in the Mt. Thamran area.[4]

Al Houthi forces claimed to launch a short-range ballistic missile at the operational headquarters of the Saudi-led coalition in western Yemen on August 21. There have been no reported casualties or independent verification. Al Houthi forces also attacked a Hadi government forces camp in al Jawf governorate, northern Yemen on August 21.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab claimed to conduct an ambush on U.S.-backed Somali forces on the highway between Afgoi and Shalambood in Lower Shabelle region on August 17. Al Shabaab claimed to kill multiple soldiers and capture equipment. The attack remains unconfirmed.[6]

The Ethiopian government denied recent media reports about alleged troop withdrawals from the Eritrean border on August 18. Defense Minister Motumma Mekassa stated that the reported movement of troops was a “normal routine” and that “there are no formal agreements” at present between Ethiopian and Eritrea for the demilitarization of the border. Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement on July 8 officially ending hostilities between the two countries. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border conflict from 1998 to 2000 and the border has remained heavily militarized since. Eritrean media announced Eritrea had withdrawn troops from the border as a “gesture of reconciliation” on July 19, but this claim is not independently verified.[7]

Ethiopian security forces announced on August 20 that they have arrested more than 170 “anti-peace elements” in Oromia region. Security forces accuse the suspects of various crimes including incitement to violence, illegal land grabbing, looting, and ethnic violence. Clashes between ethnic Oromo and neighboring communities have taken place for years. Violence between Oromo and ethnic Somalis prompted a military intervention in Ethiopia’s Somali regional state earlier this month.[8]

Mozambican security forces raided a base of the militant group Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a in the village of Pundanhar, Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique on August 16. Security forces killed four militants and captured Abdul Raim, whom the authorities named as a leader of the group earlier this month.[9]


[1] David Martin, “U.S. officials confident drone strike killed chief al Qaeda bomb maker,” CBS, August 20, 2018,; and “Chief al-Qaeda bomb maker ‘killed in Yemen’ - U.S. reports,” BBC News, August 21, 2018,

[2] “30 militia were killed in a failed attack on the Army in Hayran,” Hadramout, August 21, 2018,

[3] “The Army is advancing in the Directorate of Sawadiyah in al-Bayda,” Barakish, August 21, 2018,; and “23 Houthi gunmen killed in clashes with the army in northern al Bayda,” Hadramout, August 21, 2018,

[4] “Fifth Brigade forces take control of Jabal Thamran and clear 12 sites from the grip of the Houthis,” Hadramout, August 21, 2018,

[5] “Short-range ballistic missile targets the operations headquarters of the invasion forces on the western coast,” Saba, August 21, 2018,; and “A surprise attack by the army and resistance committees on mercenaries in Sallan camp in al Jawf,” September 26 News, August 21, 2018,

[6] “Shabaab claims eight attacks in four days in southern Somalia,” SITE Intelligence Group, August 20, 2018, translation available by subscription at

[7] “Ethiopia not withdrawing troops from Eritrea front lines yet,” Africa News, August 19, 2018,; Dawit Endeshaw, “Ethiopia dispels reports of troop withdrawal from Eritrea border,” The Reporter, August 18, 2018,; “Eritrea withdraws border troops,” Reuters, July 19, 2018,

[8] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Ethiopia arrests over 170 anti-peace elements in Oromia region,” Africa News, August 21, 2018,; and “Scores arrested over violence in restive Ethiopian state,” AFP, August 21, 2018,

[9] Matthew Hill and Borges Nhamire, “Mozambique captured rebel leader in gas-rich north, sources say,” Bloomberg, August 21, 2018,

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