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: UN monitoring team deploys to al Hudaydah city; AQAP detonates IED at police headquarters in Ash Shihr city, Hadramawt governorate and blames Emirati-backed security forces for civilian casualties; AQAP and Islamic State clash in al Bayda governorate; AQAP militants detonate IED targeting Emirati-backed security forces in Abyan governorate; security forces discover mass grave in AQAP-controlled area in Taiz city

Horn of Africa: Security forces respond violently to anti-regime protests in Sudan; al Shabaab conducts double bombing at presidential palace in Mogadishu; AFRICOM confirms self-defense strikes in Beled Amin, Lower Shabelle region; Somali court executes al Shabaab attack planner

Yemen Security Brief

The UN monitoring team in al Hudaydah held its first meeting with representatives from Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and the al Houthi movement on December 26. A UN monitoring advance team arrived at al Hudaydah city in western Yemen on December 23. Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert, who is leading the team, traveled to Aden and Sana’a cities on December 22 to meet with Hadi government and al Houthi officials. The UN Security Council approved the 30 day-deployment to monitor the al Hudaydah ceasefire on December 21. The UN team’s first task is to develop an assessment of the security situation in al Hudaydah governorate to determine the necessary size of a full monitoring team.[1]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated at least one improvised explosive device (IED) at the entrance of the police headquarters in Ash Shihr city, southern Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on December 21. AQAP claimed on December 23 that Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces fired on locals gathering around the scene and one soldier threw a grenade at the crowed before fleeing on a motorcycle. AQAP accused Hadhrami Elite Forces of shedding innocent Muslim blood and vowed to take revenge. Local security officials stated that AQAP militants detonated two IEDs and did not comment on AQAP’s claim that troops fired on civilians.[2]

AQAPand the Islamic State in Yemen both claimed attacks targeting each other in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. AQAP militants detonated an IED targeting an Islamic State truck and ambushed a second truck in al Najd area, northwestern al Bayda on December 19. The Islamic State claimed one of its militants killed an AQAP member with a sniper in northwestern al Bayda on December 19. AQAP militants also shelled an Islamic State building in the Dhi Kalb area of al Bayda after repulsing an Islamic State attack on an AQAP position on December 22. The Islamic State claimed to detonate an IED targeting an AQAP vehicle in the Dhi Kalb area on December 24.[3]

AQAP militants detonated an IED targeting Emirati-backed security forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on December 20. AQAP militants detonated the IED near a market in al Mahfad district, northwestern Abyan, killing two members of the al Hizam Security Forces.[4] 

Local security officials discovered a mass grave of Hadi government troops in a compound in eastern Taiz city, central Yemen on December 18. The compound is near Souq al Sameel area, which is reportedly controlled by AQAP and AQAP-linked militants. Local officials have not yet determined the identities of all of the deceased. Taiz Governor Amin Mahmoud formed a commission to search for additional mass graves in the city on December 22.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Thousands of protesters attempted to march on the presidential palace in Khartoum and called for the resignation of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir on December 25. Security forces dispersed the crowd with bullets and tear gas, continuing a violent response to a week of protests against corruption and economic policies. Professional and political organizations are organizing the protests and seek to submit a petition to parliament to transfer power to a transitional technocratic government. Bashir promised reform measures in a statement on December 24, and the Sudanese military has pledged to support him.[6]

An al Shabaab militant detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) at a checkpoint to the rear of the presidential palace in Mogadishu on December 22, killing 26 people and wounding others. Those killed include journalist Awil Dahir Salad and other members of the press. The blast also wounded a member of parliament and a deputy mayor of Mogadishu. A parked VBIED targeted first responders after the initial blast. Al Shabaab claimed the attack, emphasizing the Somali government’s failure to secure the capital with Western support.[7]

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted two airstrikes in defense of Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces accompanied by American advisers near Beled Amin in Lower Shabelle region, Somalia on December 19. The strikes killed 11 al Shabaab militants.[8]

A Somali military court executed an al Shabaab bombmaker and attack planner in Mogadishu on December 24. Abdikadir Abukar planned several VBIED attacks that killed and injured dozens of people in Mogadishu in 2017.[9]

[1] “UN convenes warring sides in Yemen's Hodeida,” AFP, December 26, 2018,; Mohammed Ghobari and Aziz El Yaakoubi, “Head of U.N. team to monitor Hodeidah ceasefire arrives in Yemen,” Reuters, December 22, 2018,; and “Yemen's UN Cease-Fire Monitors Arrive in Port of Hodeida,” The Associated Press, December 23, 2018,

[2] “The number of victims of the bombing targeting a police station in the coast of Hadramawt rose to two dead and 45 injured,” al Masdar Online, December 22, 2018,; and “AQAP claims bombing Shihr police station but denies part in inflicting casualties among civilians,” December 26, 2018, available at

[3] “AQAP claims 1st attack on IS fighters, bombing and ambushing vehicles in al-Bayda’,” SITE, December 24,  2018, available at; and Islamic State in Yemen claims it detonated an IED targeting an AQAP vehicle in Dhi Kalb, al Bayda governorate, Telegram, December 24, 2018. 

[4] “AQAP claims 1st attack on IS fighters, bombing and ambushing vehicles in al-Bayda’,” SITE, December 24,  2018, available at; and “Abyan: Two dead and one wounded from the “al Hizam security” when a bomb exploded,” Al Arabi, December 20, 2018,

[5] “Mass graves in the areas of coalition control in Taiz,” Al Khabar al Yemeni, December 18, 2018,; “Security source in Taiz: We identified the identity of one of the soldiers buried in secret graves and investigations will reveal the rest,” al Masdar Online, December 22, 2018,; and “

[6] “Clashes erupt as Sudanese march on presidential palace,” Associated Press, December 25, 2018,; “37 protesters dead in government crackdown on demonstrations,” Amnesty International December 24, 2018,; Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “Sudanese Protests, After Days of Violence, Turn Anger Over Bread Toward Bashir,” New York Times, December 24, 2018,; “Six injured as Sudan police disperse Khartoum crowds with tear gas, live fire,” Radio Dabanga, December 25, 2018,; and Hamza Hendawi, “Sudan’s military pledges to stand by embattled president,” Associated Press, December 23, 2018,

[7] “Al-Shabaab car bomb kills at least 16 in Mogadishu,” Associated Press, December 22, 2018,; “Shabaab claims double car bombing, one by suicide attacker, at presidential palace in Mogadishu,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 22, 2018, English translation available by subscription at; and Abdi Guled, “Death toll rises to 26 in weekend blasts in Somalia capital,” Associated Press, December 24, 2018,

[8] “Al-Shabaab Degraded by U.S.,Federal Government of Somalia,” U.S. Africa Command, December 20, 2018,

[9] “Somalia: Mastermind of al-Shabaab bombings executed,” AFP, December 24, 2018,

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