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: Iran denies transferring ballistic missiles to al Houthi movement; reported U.S. airstrike kills two AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed forces with IED in Abyan governorate

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM conducts airstrike against al Shabaab in Jilib, Middle Jubba region; Kenyan officials comply with court order to return opposition lawyer’s passport; Kenyan immigration officials prevent opposition members from traveling; al Shabaab escalates indoctrination and extortion amid declining morale

Yemen Security Brief

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denied Iran’s involvement with transferring ballistic missile components to the al Houthi movement and stated that Iran will support any effort to end the Yemeni civil war on February 21. A UN Panel of Experts found Iran guilty of preventing the direct or indirect supply of ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to the al Houthi movement on February 14. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasimi demanded arms sales to Saudi Arabia cease on February 21.[1] 

A reported U.S. airstrike killed two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Hamiqan area, near al Bayda city in central Yemen on February 18. The U.S. frequently targets AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate to degrade AQAP’s ability to conduct local and external operations.[2]

AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces in al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on February 18. AQAP militants attacked al Hizam Security Forces three other times in February in an attempt to compel security forces to withdraw from al Mahfad.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) killed three al Shabaab militants in an airstrike near Jilib, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia on February 19. Al Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency claimed that militants killed an American soldier and four Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers in Bulo Gadud near Kismayo city in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on February 20. AFRICOM denied that al Shabaab killed any American soldier in the engagement. U.S.-backed SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces recaptured several al Shabaab-controlled bases and military checkpoints in the Lower Shabelle region in the past week.[4] 

The Kenyan Director of Immigration complied with the High Court’s directive and surrendered the passport of opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna to the court on February 21. The High Court declared that the Interior Ministry’s decision to deport Miguna to Canada was illegal on February 15. Kenyan police arrested Miguna on February 2 for participating in the symbolic inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga on January 30 and for his membership in the National Resistance Movement, which the Interior Ministry declared a criminal group on January 31. Authorities stated that they deported Miguna because he did not apply for Kenyan citizenship after revisions to the 2010 constitution allowed dual citizenship.[5]

Kenyan immigration officials barred two opposition members from leaving Kenya for Zimbabwe on February 19. The officials claimed that opposition figures Senator James Orengo and financier Jimi Wanjigi did not present court orders to overturn the suspension of their passports that would permit them to leave the country. Immigration officials held Orengo and Wanjigi on February 19 but allowed them to fly on February 20. Orengo and Wanjigi planned to attend the funeral of a Zimbabwean opposition leader. Authorities did not prevent opposition leader Raila Odinga from traveling to the funeral.[6]

Al Shabaab defectors revealed to Somali authorities that militants are intensifying extortion and indoctrination efforts amid worsening morale, according to a report from The Guardian. Defectors said that al Shabaab is suffering from financial shortages and defections, causing it to increase taxes on citizens and seize children to be suicide bombers and soldiers. Increased operations by U.S.-backed SNA and AMISOM forces against al Shabaab strongholds have caused internal distrust within the group. Al Shabaab’s Islamic courts have ordered the execution of suspected spies and intensified punishments in recent weeks.[7]

[1] “President Rouhani: Tehran welcomes cementing ties with EU, including Netherlands,” IRNA, February 21, 2018,; and “Tehran calls on the West to stop supplying Saudi arms,” Al Masirah, February 21, 2018,
[2] “Two al Qaeda members were killed in al Bayda in a U.S. raid,” Ababiil, February 18, 2018,
[3] AQAP militants detonated an IED in Mahfad, Telegram, February 18, 2018.
[4] “U.S. military denies Al-Shabaab killed its soldier in Somalia,” Xinhua Net, February 21, 2018,; “U.S. military denies Al-Shabaab killed its soldier in Somalia,” Radio Shabelle, February 21, 2018,; “Shabaab Claims Killing American Soldier, 4 Somali Forces in Bulo Gadud,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 20, 2018, available by subscription at; and “U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” United States Africa Command Press Releases, February 21, 2018,
[5] “Win for Miguna Miguna as passport is surrendered to court,” Standard Media, February 21, 2018,; and “Immigration boss surrenders Miguna's perforated passport,” The Star, February 21, 2018,
[6] “Kenya allows opposition figures to travel after barring them overnight,” Reuters, February 20, 2018,; and “Kenya allows opposition figures to fly to Zimbabwe Kenyan,” BBC, February 20, 2018.
[7] “Al-Shabaab plundering starving Somali villages of cash and children,” The Guardian, February 21, 2018,

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