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: Australian mercenary killed in Taiz governorate; militants destroy Catholic church in Aden city; Yemeni army and popular resistance forces assault al Houthi-held military camp in al Jawf governorate

Horn of Africa: High-ranking al Shabaab regional commander and 1200 militants believed to defect to ISIS in southern Somalia and northeastern Kenya; pro-ISIS militants take control of Dhobley, Lower Jubba region; Somalia’s Southwest State president calls for SNA and AMISOM to clear al Shabaab blockades in Southwest State territories, southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

  • Fighting in Taiz governorate in central Yemen killed an Australian mercenary commander, as well as six Columbian mercenaries, on December 8. Reports indicate that the UAE-employed mercenaries worked under contract for Academi, also known as Blackwater, a U.S.-based private security training services company. Popular resistance forces and Yemeni army units backed by the Saudi-led coalition are fighting the al Houthi-Saleh alliance for control of Taiz governorate.[1]
  • Unidentified militants blew up a Catholic church in Aden city in southern Yemen on December 9. The church, which was damaged by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in May, had been abandoned since Aden’s small Catholic population fled Yemen decades ago.[2]
  • Coalition-backed Yemeni army and popular resistance forces assaulted an al Houthi-Saleh military camp in Labanat in al Jawf governorate in northern Yemen on December 9. The pro-Hadi forces reportedly killed dozens of al Houthi-Saleh combatants and seized al Houthi weapons and supply stores. Al Houthi-Saleh forces killed a popular resistance spokesman during the fighting.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Kenyan intelligence reports indicate that Mohamed Kuno, al Shabaab’s commander for the Lower Jubba region, defected to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) at an unspecified date in late November. Kuno, also known as Gamadhere, is believed to have planned al Shabaab’s attack on Garissa University in April of this year. An estimated 1,200 militants under Kuno’s command are thought to have defected along with him. The defectors include the previously al Shabaab-affiliated Jaysh Ayman cell. Kuno is reportedly a close associate of Abdul Qadir Mumin, a former al Shabaab religious leader in northern Somalia who defected to ISIS in late October along with a number of militants from his cell.[4]
  • Pro- ISIS militants took control of the Lower Jubba region’s Dhobley village on December 9. The militants in the village are reportedly loyal to a key al Shabaab leader who defected to ISIS, likely Mohamed Kuno, though their leader’s identity has not been confirmed. This is the first instance of pro-ISIS militants definitively assuming control a populated settlement in Somalia.[5] 
  • The president of Somalia’s Southwest State, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, called on December 9 for the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to end al Shabaab’s blockades in the administration’s territories in southern Somalia. Al Shabaab militants are currently blocking key roadways between unspecified cities throughout the administration’s territory, disrupting lines of communication between the Bay and Bakool regions and preventing critical food shipments from reaching urban populations. [6]

[1] “Australian mercenary reportedly killed in Yemen clashes,” The Guardian, December 8, 2015. Available:
“Australian reportedly dies in Yemen clashes,” Sky News Australia, December 9, 2015. Available:
[2] “Unknown attackers blow up Catholic church in Yemen’s Aden: residents,” Reuters, December 9, 2015. Available:
[3] “Spokesman for popular resistance killed in al Jawf, Yemeni army besieges Lubinat military camp in three raids,” Al Masdar, December 9, 2015. Available:
[4] Dominic Wabala, “Garissa massacre planner Mohamed Kuno joins ISIS,” The Star, December 9, 2015. Available:
“Critical Threats On Kenya National Security After Kenya-Born Al-Shabaab Top Commander Joins ISIS,” Intelligence Briefs, December 9, 2015. Available:
[5] “Fans photographs capture village in Lower Jubba,” Garowe Online, December 9, 2015. [Somali] Available:
[6] “Somalia: South West State leader calls for lifting Al shabaab blockade,” Shabelle News, December 9, 2015. Available:
“South-west State leader calls on SNA and AMISOM to speed up operations against al Shabaab,” Goobjog News, December 9, 2015. Available:
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