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: Hadi government forces begin offensive to seize al Bayda governorate; southern governing council appoints heads of parliament; President Hadi replaces governors loyal to southern governing council; Saudi-led coalition airstrikes kill civilians in Taiz market, central Yemen; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed forces in southern and eastern Yemen  

Horn of Africa: ISIS in Somalia releases first official video; al Shabaab executes seven civilians; Oromo and Amhara MPs boycott Ethiopian parliament; U.S. airstrike kills 13 al Shabaab militants in southern Somalia; al Shabaab militants conduct attacks in Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants conduct attacks in Lower Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief

Hadi government forces began an offensive to seize the al Houthi movement-controlled al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on December 26. The Hadi government 107th Brigade entered Nati’ district, central al Bayda, after seizing territory in neighboring Bayhan district, Shabwah governorate. Leaders of the al Awadi and al Wahbi tribes in al Bayda pledged their support for the Hadi government on December 26. The al Awadi tribe is one of the most prominent tribes in Nati’ district. Hadi government and Saudi-led coalition forces have been absent from al Bayda since the al Houthi movement seized it in 2015. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants have been supporting anti-al Houthi tribal forces in al Bayda governorate throughout the conflict.[1]

Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) President Aydarus al Zubaydi appointed Major General Ahmed Bin Brik, the former governor of Hadramawt, as the head of the STC’s National Assembly during the assembly’s first meeting on December 23. The STC is an Emirati-backed governing body that rivals the legitimacy of the internationally recognized Hadi government in southern Yemen. STC President al Zubaydi also appointed Dr. Anis Yousef Ali Luqman as the deputy head of the National Assembly and Hussein Zein al Saqqaf as the rapporteur of the assembly.[2]

President Hadi replaced the governors of Lahij and al Daleh on December 24, the last remaining governors part of the STC.  President Hadi replaced the other governors loyal to the STC—Aden, Abyan, Shabwah, Hadrawmat, and Socotra—throughout 2017.  Hadi also replaced the governor of Taiz, who has publicly criticized the Hadi government on several occasions for failing to support public services and military forces in Taiz, on December 24. Hadi appointed several news ministers on December 25.[3]

Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck a market in Taiz city, central Yemen, killing roughly 14 civilians and injuring several others on December 26. The coalition conducted the airstrike in support of a Hadi government offensive northeast of Taiz city but missed its target. Hadi government officials claimed the airstrike on the market killed 11 al Houthi troops in addition to the civilian casualties. Al Houthi media outlets also reported civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes in Sana’a and al Hudaydah governorates on December 26.[4]

AQAP militants attacked Emirati-backed forces in southern and eastern Yemen on December 25. AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting an Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces commander in Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen. AQAP militants also shelled Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces in near al Mukalla city and in Daw’an district, Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on December 25.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in Somalia released its first official video on December 25. The video called on supporters to attack disbelievers in large gathering spaces and churches during the holidays in the East and West. The video ended with a call to supporters in Ethiopia to join ISIS and warned against procrastinating from jihad.[6]

Al Shabaab militants executed seven people between December 22 and 24. Al Shabaab militants executed four men and boy after an al Shabaab judge found them guilty of spying for the Kenyan, U.S., and Somali forces in Idale town, Bay region, southern Somalia on December 24. Al Shabaab militants also executed two men accused of being homosexual in Galhareri city, Galgaduud region, central Somalia on December 22.[7]

Oromo and Amhara Members of Parliament boycotted a session of Ethiopian parliament to protest government repression on December 21 and 22. The Oromo and Amhara-affiliated political parties also urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to explain the government’s recent targeted violence against the Oromo and Amhara ethnic communities. Government forces killed over 40 Oromos since December 11. The ruling government coalition is comprised of four political parties based on the major ethnic groups in Ethiopia, but the Tigray ethnic community control the coalition.[8]

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed 13 al Shabaab militants on December 24. AFRICOM coordinated the strike with the Somali Federal Government. AFRICOM has conducted three other airstrikes in Somalia since December.[9]

Al Shabaab conducted multiple attacks in Mogadishu between December 23 and 24. Al Shabaab militants shelled Villa Somalia, the presidential residence, and assassinated two local government officials in Hamarweyne district on December 23. Al Shabaab militants later attacked a Somali National Army (SNA) barracks in Huriwa district and detonated an IED targeting the Ministry of Defense and an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) convoy on December 23. Al Shabaab militants also detonated a grenade targeting SNA forces in Huriwa district on December 24.[10]

Al Shabaab militants attacked SNA forces three times near Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia between December 21 and 26.  Al Shabaab militants attacked a convoy of U.S.-trained SNA forces on the Afgoi-Wanlaweyn highway on December 21. Al Shabaab militants detonated an IED targeting AMISOM forces in Afgoi on December 24. Militants also attempted to raid a SNA base in Afgoi on December 26. SNA forces rebuffed the attack, but al Shabaab seized some military supplies during the attempted raid. Al Shabaab has attacked Afgoi seven times in December.[11]

[1] “Rapid developments in the battle of al Bayda and the army officially announce this great and shocking victory over the militia,” Event Press, December 26, 2017,; and “Houthis alone in al Awadi and al Wahbi tribes join the legitimacy,” December 26, 2017,
[2] “Al Zubaidi appoints Ben Brik as head of the National Assembly, Luqman as his deputy and, al Saqqaf as rapporteur,” Southern Transitional Council, December 23, 2017,
[3] “Amin Mahmoud, governor of Taiz, Major General Ali Muqbel, governor of Dhala and Brigadier General Ahmad Turki, governor of Hajj,” Official website of the President of the Republic of Yemen, December 24, 2017,امين-محمود-محافظاً-لتعز-و-اللواء-علي-مق/; and “The new ministers are sworn in before the President,” Official website of the President of the Republic of Yemen, December 25, 2017,الوزراء-الجدد-يؤدون-اليمين-الدستورية-2/.
[4] “'Civilians killed' in Saudi raids in Yemen's Taiz,” al Jazeera, December 26, 2017,; and “Saudi-led strikes on Yemen market kills 14 civilians,” December 27, 2017,
[5] AQAP militants claim attacks against Emriati-backed forces in Mahfad, Abyan, al Mukalla and Daw’an, Hadramawt, Telegram, December 25, 2017.
[6] “In Inaugural Official Video From Somalia, IS Fighter call to “Hunt Down” Disbalivers During Holiday Season,” SITE December 25, 2017, available by subscription at
[7] Harun Maruf, “Al-Shabab Executes 5, Including Teenage Boy,” Voice of America, December 25, 2017,; and “Shabaab reports executing homoscuals and spies, claims attacking Somali Defense Ministry in Mogadishu,” SITE, December 25, 2017, available by subscription at
[8] “Ethiopia’s ruling coalition sweats over insecurity as Oromo and Amhara MPs protest,” Africa News, December 21, 2017.
[9] U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM, December 27, 2017,
[10] Shabaab reports executing homosexuals and spies, claims attacking Somali Defense Ministry in Mogadishu, SITE, December 25, 2017, available by subscription at; and Hiraan Online, December 24, 2017,
[11] Shabaab reports executing homosexuals and spies, claims attacking Somali Defense Ministry in Mogadishu, SITE, December 25, 2017, available by subscription at; and Government soldiers and al Shabaab fighters engage in fierce fight in Lower Shabelle,”Goobjoog, December 26, 2017,
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