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: Reported U.S. airstrike kills three AQAP militants in al Hawta, Lahij; airstrikes target AQAP positions in Lahij and Abyan; al Houthi-Saleh forces launch missile and shells across Saudi-Yemeni border; gunmen attempt to assassinate Aden governor and security director; Emirati soldier killed in Yemen; ICRC and WFP deliver aid to Taiz city
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab takes responsibility for Daallo Airlines bombing; al Shabaab claims to capture downed U.S. drone and missiles in Gedo region; al Shabaab assassinates former Somali defense minister in Mogadishu; al Shabaab launches coordinated attack on Afgooye military installations in Middle Shabelle region; SNA and AMISOM troops repulse al Shabaab attack on Burweyn, Hiiraan region, Somalia
Yemen Security Brief
- A reported U.S. airstrike killed three suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Hawta city in Lahij governorate on February 15. The strike hit government water and telecommunications offices. AQAP-linked militants captured al Hawta, the capital of Lahij, on January 24. Media outlets linked to AQAP’s insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, have since reported the group’s public works projects in the city. Al Hawta lies less than 40 kilometers north of Yemen’s temporary capital, Aden.
- Three separate airstrikes hit AQAP-occupied government offices in the Jebel Khanfar area of Ja’ar in Abyan governorate on February 16, one day after airstrikes reportedly hit militant positions in al Hawta and al Waht, Lahij. Some sources have attributed the strikes to the Saudi-led coalition, while others have attributed them to the United States.
- Saudi air defenses intercepted a Scud missile fired by al Houthi-Saleh forces toward Khamis Mushayt in southwestern Saudi Arabia on February 14. On the same day, al Houthi-Saleh shelling killed a Saudi border guard in Jazan province, southern Saudi Arabia.
- Gunmen attempted to assassinate Aden’s governor and chief of security near Caltex Junction in Aden on February 16. Governor Aydarus al Zubaidi and Brigadier General Shalal Ali Shaye’a escaped the attempt unharmed, but sources report two of the officials’ bodyguards and two civilians were wounded in the ensuing clashes. Three of the gunmen were also killed. Militants previously targeted Governor Zubaidi on January 5 and Shaye’a on January 17, both with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). The Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham claimed the assassination of Aden’s prior governor on December 6.
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) state news agency reported on February 14 that one Emirati infantryman was killed and another wounded while fighting in Yemen, bringing the official the Emirati death toll to 68 since the beginning of coalition operations in March 2015. The UAE did not confirm the location or cause of the soldier’s death, but there are unconfirmed reports that the soldier died when Islamist militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) targeting a coalition convoy near al Hawta, Lahij. The convoy was reportedly traveling northward from Aden.
- International organizations delivered additional medical and food aid reached the besieged city of Taiz in southwestern Yemen. The International Committee of the Red Cross announced on February 13 that it had entered the city and distributed supplies to four hospitals. Meanwhile, The UN World Food Programme (WFP) made its second delivery this year on February 13, delivering enough food to feed 18,000 for one month. The World Health Organization (WHO) delivered more than 20 tons of medical supplies to major Taiz hospitals last month.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the February 2 in-flight bombing of Daallo Airlines flight #3159 in a statement on February 13. The suicide bomber, Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, detonated the bomb, which was concealed in a laptop, aboard the plane around 15 minutes after its take-off from Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport, killing himself and injuring two passengers. The militant group stated that it targeted “dozens of Western intelligence officials and Turkish NATO forces” onboard the plane. Many of the passengers, including Borleh, were originally on the manifest of a Turkish Airlines flight, which is believed to be the original target. Turkish Airlines cancelled the flight at the last minute, citing adverse weather conditions.
- Al Shabaab militants in Somalia’s Gedo region claimed to capture a U.S. Predator drone that crashed 60 kilometers northwest of Baardhere town on February 14. Sheikh Abdirahman Abu Mohamed, the group’s Gedo regional commander, claimed that the drone was equipped with six missiles. A Gedo government representative and a Kenyan security official, both stationed in Baardhere, also confirmed that a crash had occurred. A spokesperson from United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) stated that they were unaware of any incidents in Somalia and that all units had been accounted for.
- Al Shabaab planted a car bomb on the vehicle of the former defense minister of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu, Somalia on February 15. Muhiyadin Mohamed Haji Ibrahim was killed by a device affixed to the underside of his car as it drove through the KM4 traffic circle in Mogadishu. Al Shabaab’s media outlet and affiliated social media accounts claimed responsibility for the assassination, as well as several other recent attacks against “senior apostate intelligence officials.”
- Al Shabaab militants launched a coordinated attack on the town of Afgooye and surrounding villages in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region around midnight on February 16. The fighters targeted military and police installations in the town, which is located on the outskirts of Mogadishu City, killing at least eight Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers and seizing two vehicles. The fighters maintained control of the town for a short time and then reportedly withdrew, allowing Somali security forces to reenter the town.
- Al Shabaab fighters attacked and briefly recaptured the town of Burweyn in Somalia’s Hiiraan region on February 13, killing one SNA soldier and injuring three. SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces regrouped and forced the fighters from the town, killing at least ten of the militants and causing the rest to flee into a nearby forest.