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: ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan assassinates Aden governor; Geneva peace talks to convene on December 15; Saudi troops repel al Houthi cross-border attack in Jazan province, Saudi Arabia; gunmen assassinate judge and security officials in Aden; AQAP militants detain students for male-female association in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate

Horn of Africa: American-born al Shabaab militant surrenders to Somali government in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region; Al Shabaab kills a pro-ISIS militant in an unspecified location in southern Somalia; AMISOM says it will send peace keepers if requested to Galkayo, Mudug region; KDF airstrikes hit al Shabaab training camps in Diif and Yara-Lafagari, Lower Shabelle region; SNA forces kill al Shabaab commander in Elgaras, Bakool region.

Yemen Security Brief

  • Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan killed Aden governor Jaafar Mohammad Saad and at least six members of his security detail in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack in Aden city in southern Yemen on December 6. This is the first high-profile assassination conducted by ISIS in Yemen.[1]
  • Yemeni foreign minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi announced on December 5 that UN-led peace talks will convene in Geneva on December 15. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with Yemeni president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Aden on December 5 to discuss the proposed agenda for the talks, following a similar meeting with the al Houthi delegation in Muscat, Oman. Officials said on December 7 that they expect a humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen within the coming days in advance of the peace talks.[2]
  • Saudi troops repelled an al Houthi offensive into Jazan province in southern Saudi Arabia on December 7, killing 50 al Houthis. Pro-al Houthi forces intensified cross-border attacks on Saudi territory in the past week, launching at least two major ground assaults that have been rebuffed by Saudi forces.[3]
  • Gunmen killed at least four government and security officials in Aden on December 5 and December 6. Unidentified attackers assassinated Judge Mohsen Alwan, who presided over the USS Cole bombing investigation and was known for anti-terrorism rulings. Gunmen also killed an energy official and two security officers in the city. No groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks.[4]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detained dozens of male and female university students in al Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate in eastern Yemen on December 7. The militants charged the students with the “mixing of men and women” and released them several hours later. AQAP has governed al Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt governorate, through a proxy group since April.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • An allegedly American-born al Shabaab militant surrendered to the Somali government on December 7 in Barawe, Hiraan region. Somali officials said that the detained individual, who claimed to be an American citizen, was a member of al Shabaab who fled the group. It is unknown if his surrender is related to ongoing al Shabaab and pro-ISIS tensions. The U.S. has yet to confirm the individual’s claims of citizenship.[6]
  • Al Shabaab militants killed Mohammed Makkawi Ibrahim, an al Shabaab militant and former assassin, on December 5 at an unspecified location in southern Somalia. Ibrahim was involved in the death of John Granville, who was a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) worker killed in Sudan in early 2008. Ibrahim became a member of al Shabaab after escaping a Sudanese prison in late 2008 and crossing into Somalia. Ibrahim was reportedly vocal about leaving al Shabaab to join ISIS. Al Shabaab killed Ibrahim during a clash with pro-ISIS militants in southern Somalia. An anonymous associate of Ibrahim said on social media that al Shabaab targeted Ibrahim for his pro-ISIS sentiments.[7]
  • African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) officials said that they would send peacekeepers to Galkayo, Mudug region to respond to the tensions between Galmudug and Puntland security forces if asked by the Somali federal government. Both the Galmudug and Puntland administrations recently withdrew their security forces, but similar ceasefire agreements have broken down multiple times since the conflict began on November 22.[8]  
  • Kenyan warplanes bombed al Shabaab training camps in the Lower Shabelle region’s Diif and Yara-Lafagari villages on December 4. Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) reports indicated that the strikes inflicted casualties, although specific figures are unavailable. The villages are also believed to be strongholds of pro-ISIS militants in the region.[9]
  • Joint Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM forces attacked an al Shabaab base on December 6 in Elgaras, Bakool region. SNA and AMISOM forces attacked the militants with both artillery and gunfire, inflicting casualties and killing an al Shabaab commander. The forces successfully cleared the militant base.[10]

[1] “Yemen’s Aden governor killed in car bombing claimed by Islamic State,” Reuters, December 6, 2015. Available:
IS claims killing governor of Aden in car bombing,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 6, 2015. Source available upon request.
“IS-claimed bombing kills Yemeni governor, 6 guards in Aden,” ABC News, December 6, 2015. Available:
[2] “Yemen peace talks to convene December 15, Yemeni minister tells Saudi TV,” Reuters, December 5, 2015. Available:
“Yemen humanitarian ceasefire expected in days, ahead of peace talks: official,” Reuters, December 7, 2015. Available:
[3] “50 al Houthi supporters killed in effort to infiltrate Saudi territory,” Barakish, December 7, 2015. Available:
[4] “Series of assassinations in Aden targeting conservative judge Jaafar Mohammed Saad,” Barakish, December 6, 2015. Available:
“The assassination of a security officer shot dead by unknown assailants in Aden,” Barakish, December 6, 2015. Available:
Twitter, Mohammed Basha, December 6, 2015. Available:
[5] ”Yemen: al Qaeda detained students in Mukalla ‘because of mixing,’” BBC, December 7, 2015. Available:
[6] “An American-born militant captured in southern Somalia – Official,” Shabelle News, December 7, 2015. Available:
“Al Shabaab foreign fighter surrenders himself to authorities,” Goobjoog News, December 7, 2015. Available:
[7] “Sudanese USAID employee assassin killed by al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Sudan Tribune, December 5, 2015. Available:
[8] “AMISOM: if asked, we will send peacekeepers to Galkayo city,” Shabelle News December 6, 2015. Available:
“Somalia: Galmudug and Puntland start retreating forces from Galkayo front-line,” Shabelle News, December 6, 2015. Available:
“Puntland and Galmudug forces clash in southern Galkayo city,” Shabelle News, November 22, 2015. Available:
[9] “Kenyan military jets bomb Al shabaab camps,” Shabelle News, December 7, 2015. Available:
[10] “Somalia: Al shabaab commander killed in Bakool attack – Official,” Shabelle News, December 6, 2015. Available:
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