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: AQAP seizes Azzan in Shabwah governorate; ISIS SVBIED kills two at security checkpoint in Aden; militants kill prominent Salafi cleric in Aden; coalition announces inquiry into civilian casualties claims

Horn of Africa: al Shabaab executes three civilians in Lamu County, Kenya; suspected al Shabaab militants launch mortar attacks  in Mogadishu; suspected al Shabaab militants attempt to assassinate court official in Bardhere; AMISOM and SNA forces arrest 50 for alleged al Shabaab ties in Jowhar town, Middle Shabelle region, Somalia; SNA repulses al Shabaab attack in Qoryooley, Lower Shabelle region, Somalia; internationally backed de-radicalization center to be built in Kismayo, Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants seized Azzan city in central Shabwah governorate on February 1. Local resistance forces did not contest the group’s advance, according to reports. The takeover comes less than a week after reports that AQAP seized the city of al Hawta in Lahij governorate, near Aden. AQAP previously controlled Azzan, a major commercial center, in 2011 and 2012, before local tribal and popular resistance forces expelled the group.[1]
  • The Islamic State in Iraq an al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan claimed a suicide attack on a security checkpoint in Aden on January 29, following a similar attack on the presidential palace on January 28. The bomber, identified as Oweis al Adeni, detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) as he reached a checkpoint in Aden’s southern Crater district, killing two and wounding five. The attack is the second claimed by ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan following a period of relative silence. The group last claimed credit for assassinating the previous governor of Aden on December 6.[2]
  • Militants abducted and killed an influential Salafi cleric in Aden. Samahan Abdel Aziz was kidnapped after delivering a sermon against AQAP and ISIS at a mosque in al Burayqah district. Officials found his body the following day in Sheikh Othman district and noted indications of torture. Both AQAP and ISIS operate in Aden and have previously claimed credit for assassinations in the city.[3]
  • The Saudi-led coalition announced an independent inquiry into claims that its air campaign has caused disproportionate civilian casualties. The coalition also accepted responsibility for the October 27 bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Sa’ada governorate in northern Yemen. The coalition plans to establish a hotline with MSF, whose facilities and personnel have suffered several attacks throughout the conflict.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants killed at least three civilians in a raid on the village of Pandanguo in Kenya’s coastal Lamu County on January 31.  Witnesses reported that five Somali-speaking gunmen entered the village and interrogated several men, shooting those who could not their questions.  An al Shabaab spokesperson took responsibility for the raid in a phone call to al Jazeera and claimed details on the attack would be forthcoming. This incident comes less than a week after an al Shabaab improvised explosive device (IED) attack killed seven Kenyan police officers near Milimani in Lamu County.[5] 
  • Suspected al Shabaab militants launched a mortar attack in Mogadishu’s Waardhigley district on February 1.  The attack reportedly targeted the presidential palace, but several mortar rounds  fell short and hit an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp nearby, killing at least two civilians.[6]
  • Suspected al Shabaab gunmen attempted to assassinate Sheikh Ibrahim Nur Sha'ban outside a mosque in Bardere in southern Somalia’s Bay region on January 29.  Sha’ban, who is a court official in Bardhere, was attacked while leaving a mosque and sustained minor injuries.[7]
  • African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) forces conducted a large clearing operation in Jowhar town, Middle Shabelle region, Somalia on January 30 and arrested approximately  50 people for alleged ties to al Shabaab.[8]
  • Al Shabaab militants launched an attack on the city of Qoryooley in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on January 29.  SNA forces responded to the attack and repulsed the attackers after several hours of fighting. The SNA district commander confirmed that the town remains under government control.[9] 
  • The Somali Federal Government, with the support of Germany, AMISOM, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), announced a plan to open a new disarmament, demobilization and reintegration Center in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region, Somalia.  The center will aim to de-radicalize former al Shabaab fighters and help reintegrate them into their communities. [10] 
[1] “Al Qaeda militants seize southern Yemeni town: residents,” Reuters, February 1, 2016,
[2] “Islamic State suicide bomber kills two at checkpoint in Yemen's Aden,” Reuters, January 29, 2016,
[3] Ahmed Al-Haj, “Top Yemeni Salafi cleric killed in Aden,” Associated Press, January 31, 2016,
[4] Rick Gladstone, “Saudi Coalition in Yemen Announces Inquiry Into Bombings,” New York Times, January 31, 2016,
[5] Alphonce Gari, “Suspected al Shabaab militia kill three in fresh Lamu attack,” The Daily Star, January 31, 2016,
“Several killed in al Shabab raid on Kenya’s Lamu county,” Al Jazeera, January 31, 2016,  Cyrus Ombati, “3 people killed, many injured in Al-Shabaab attacks on Bondeni villages in Lamu County,” Standard Digital, January 31, 2016,
[6] “Casualties feared after explosions rock near presidential palace in Somalia,” Xinhua Africa News, February 1, 2016,  Omar Nor via Twitter, February 1, 2016,
[7] “Somalia: Bardere Court Chief Survives Assassination Bid,” All Africa News, January 29, 2016,  
[8] “Somalia: AU Forces Arrest 50 Al-Shabaab Suspects in Middle Shabelle,” Geeska Africa, January 31, 2016,
[9] “Somali’s Army Repels Al Shabaab Attack in Qoryooley,” Diplomat News Network, January 31, 2016,
[10] “A new center for disengaged al Shabab combatants to be built,” Goobjoog News, February 1, 2016,
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