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 envoy to Yemen announces new round of negotiations to be held in Oman; al Houthi spokesman meets with Iranian Foreign Minister; U.S. Department of State fires 360 Yemeni staff; Emirati-backed forces arrest AQAP militants responsible for Aden bank robbery; reported U.S. airstrike kills at least five AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate

Horn of Africa: SNA forces recapture villages in Lower Shabelle region; Ethiopia and ONLF open peace talks in Nairobi; al Shabaab exploits international aid for profit; SNA repels al Shabaab attack in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief         

Outgoing UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad announced that Oman agreed to host a new round of talks between the al Houthi movement and the General People’s Congress (GPC) party on February 9. Several foreign officials traveled to Oman in the past month to discuss the Yemeni conflict. Al Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam arrived in Oman with former American hostage Danny Lavon Burch on January 25. Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said met with British Secretary of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson on January 25 and with Egyptian President Abdel Sisi in Muscat, Oman on February 4.[1]

Al Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iran on February 10. Salam and Zarif discussed the Yemeni civil war, humanitarian conditions, and Iran’s four-point proposal to end the Yemeni conflict. Iran’s proposal includes an immediate ceasefire, shipments of humanitarian aid to Yemen, negotiations between Yemeni actors, and the formation of a coalition government.[2] 

The U.S. Department of State laid off 360 Yemeni staff due to new regulations regarding suspended embassies on February 6. Tueller stated that the workers will receive severance pay. The U.S. will continue to employ guards to watch the Embassy, according to the workers. The U.S. embassy closed in 2015 and relocated to Saudi Arabia after al Houthi forces took control of Sana’a.[3]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces arrested two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Ja’ar city, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on February 11 suspected of robbing a bank and killing its manager in Aden city in July 2017. Security forces arrested the militants after monitoring their movements in Aden, Abyan, and al Mahrah governorates.[4]

A reported U.S. airstrike killed at least five AQAP militants in al Atif area, al Quraishyah district, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on February 11. The U.S. frequently conducts airstrikes in central Yemen to degrade AQAP and ISIS.[5] 

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Somali National Army (SNA) recaptured strategic villages from al Shabaab in an offensive launched in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on February 12. U.S. and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces supported the offensive. The recaptured villages include Mubarak, Darusalaam, and Awdheegle. Al Shabaab has intensified attacks against Somali and AU forces in Lower Shabelle region in the past few months.[6]

Representatives of the Ethiopian government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) commenced talks in Nairobi, Kenya on February 11. The meeting is an attempt to end the ONLF’s rebellion and to progress from failed talks in 2012 and 2013. The ONLF is a separatist group fighting for the self-determination of ethnic Somalis in eastern Ethiopia. The ONLF and Somali region forces have engaged in violent conflict since 1994. Ethiopia and Somalia signed an agreement designating the ONLF as a terrorist group in 2015.[7]

Al Shabaab is exploiting foreign aid sent to Somalia to make millions of dollars, according to a CNN investigation. Al Shabaab erects roadblocks and taxes merchants sending food and supplies to internally displaced people (IDP) in cities like Baidoa in Bay region, southwestern Somalia. Al Shabaab also forces civilians to pay an annual tax. The UN estimates over two million IDPs are in Somalia and fears al Shabaab will take advantage of the humanitarian crisis as the security situation worsens.[8] 

Al Shabaab militants attacked SNA forces in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on February 10. Afgoi Police Commander said that SNA forces repelled the attack and reclaimed full control of Afgoi. Al Shabaab took responsibility for the attack and claimed to briefly seize control of the town.[9]

[1] “Oman to host new round of Yemeni talks - UN envoy,” Kuwait News Agency, February 9, 2018,

[2] “Iranian Foreign Minister meets Houthi spokesman and stresses four items to resolve the Yemeni crisis,” al Masdar Online, February 10, 2018, and “Houthi spokesman meets with Iran foreign Minister in Tehran,” The National, February 10, 2018,
[3] “U.S. lays off local staff three years after closing Yemen embassy,” Reuters, February 11, 2018,
[4] “Prime suspects in Aden bank robbery arrested, police say,” The National, February 11, 2018,; and “Aden police announced the arrest of those accused of robbing the National Bank and the killing of its director,” Al Masdar, February 10, 2018,
[5] “Drone strike kills 6 al Qaeda suspects in Yemen,” Al Arabiya, February 11, 2018,; and “Five members of the resistance were killed and two wounded by U.S. airstrikes in al Bayda governorate,” Al Masdar, February 11, 2018,
[6] “Somali forces recapture key villages from Al-Shabaab,” Radio Shabelle, February 12, 2018,
[7] “Ethiopia Opens Three-Day Talks With Somali Rebels,” Voice of America, February 11, 2018,; “Ethiopia Opens Three-Day Talks With Somali Rebels,” Radio Shabelle, February 11, 2018,; and “Ethiopia-ONLF Talks Kick off In Nairobi,” Radio Dalsan, February 11, 2018,
[8] “Funding al-Shabaab: How aid money ends up in terror group's hands,” CNN, February 12, 2018,
[9] “Somali Security forces repulse Al-Shabaab attack in Afgoye,” Radio Shabelle, February 11, 2018,; and “Somali forces foil al-Shabaab attack near capital,” Xinhua Net, February 11, 2018,

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