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: Coalition airstrikes target AQAP-held Yemeni military base near al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate; gunmen assassinate Abyan governorate military commander and security chief in Aden; documentary footage reveals AQAP checkpoint outside of Taiz city

Horn of Africa: New al Shabaab video commemorates el Adde base attack; NISA agents arrest senior al Shabaab operative in Bakara area, Mogadishu; Somali president asks international community to repeal UN arms ban; Kenyan government claims 1,500 youth respond to radicalization amnesty program

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on al Riyan base near al Mukalla, Yemen’s third-largest port city, in Hadramawt governorate on February 21. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took control of al Riyan base, the headquarters of the 27th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, when it seized al Mukalla in April 2015. AQAP has taken advantage of the base’s resources to support its objectives on other fronts in southern and eastern Yemen. The coalition’s attack is the latest in a recent series of airstrikes on AQAP positions, amid pro-Saudi reports that the coalition has also deployed special forces to AQAP areas of operations.[1]
  • Gunmen assassinated two high-level security officials in the al Mamdarah neighborhood of Aden’s al Mansoura district on February 22. The attack killed General Abdu Rabbu Hussein al Isra’ili, the commander of pro-Hadi armed forces in Abyan governorate, and Ja’bal Alawi Amras, the deputy head of political security in Aden, as the officials left al Isra’ili’s home. Assassinations and militant attacks are driving insecurity in Aden.[2]
  • Recent reporting on the fight for control of Taiz city, Yemen’s third-largest city, indicates that AQAP may be playing a more active role in the area. Journalist Safa AlAhmad’s “Taiz between the Hammer and the Anvil,” filmed in late 2015, reveals that AQAP has operated at least one checkpoint outside Taiz city. AQAP-linked militants are known to operate in Taiz, where they are fighting against al Houthi-Saleh forces and attempting to spread their influence in the contested city. One of the group’s media outlets released footage of militants destroying shrines in the city in January.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab released a video promoting the group’s January 15 attack on the Kenyan AMISOM forward operating base in el Adde, Gedo region, Somalia.  Al Shabaab’s leader in Kenya, Ahmad Iman Ali, appeared in the video wearing a Kenyan army uniform and holding an M4 rifle seized during the el Adde attack.  Ali reads the identification cards of 10 Kenyan soldiers killed in the attack and vows that the militant group’s Kenyan branch will carry out an increasing number of attacks within Kenya itself. [4]
  • Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) agents captured a senior al Shabaab operative in a raid at the Golden Hotel in the Bakara Market area of Mogadishu late on February 22. The Somali federal government had previously placed a bounty of $2,000 on the man, who was accused of targeting tribal elders and prominent businessmen.  The suspect’s identity is being withheld pending investigation.[5] 
  • Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud delivered the keynote speech at the 6th Annual High Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) between Somalia and Turkey in Istanbul, Turkey on February 23.  The HLPF brings together delegates from 50 nations to discuss the future of Somalia on an international scale.  President Mohamud asked that the international community strongly consider repealing the United Nations arms embargo on his country, which has been in place since 1992.  He claimed that the lack of advanced weaponry and vehicles negatively affects the Somali National Army’s ability to combat al Shabaab.[6] 
  • Kenyan Interior Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho announced that approximately 1,500 Kenyan teens responded to the government’s amnesty program for radicalized youth.   Kibicho also presented the first class of 19 people to graduate from the Government Training Institute’s deradicalization program, which offers reeducation and reintegration into Kenyan society as a substitute for punitive punishment.  He also noted that 29 trainees remain in the current class and another 300 are set to begin the program soon. Many of the radicalized youth attempted to travel to Somalia to join al Shabaab before turning themselves in or being captured by Kenyan authorities.[7]
[1] Mohammed al Qalisi, “Militants kill two senior security officials in Aden,” The National, February 23, 2016,
“In photos: Exclusive details reveal for the first time al Qaeda’s biggest bases in Hadramawt and the battlefield and reality of the tank transport accident, and where they were headed,” Ayn al Yemen, January 23, 2016,
[2] Mohammed al Qalisi, “Militants kill two senior security officials in Aden,” The National, February 23, 2016,
“Aden: Assassination of Brigadier General Abdu Rabbu al Isra’ili in machine gun fire – the full details,” Barakish, February 22, 2016,
[3] “Yemen conflict: Al-Qaeda joins coalition battle for Taiz,” BBC News, February 22, 2016,
“BBC documentary: Taiz between the hammer and the anvil,” BBC Arabic, February 22, 2016,
“AQAP video shows attack on Houthi position in Taiz, destroying ‘Polytheist’ shrines,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 7, 2016, source available upon request.
[4] Pro- al Shabaab Twitter account, Source available upon request. 
[5]  “NISA arrests senior member of Al-shabaab at a Mogadishu hotel ,” Wacaal Media, February 23, 2016,
Harun Maruf via Twitter, February 23, 2016,
[6] “Arms embargo outdated and must be lifted, Somali president urges, Goobjoog News, February 23, 2016,
[7] Tobias Chanji, “1,500 Kenyan youths recruited by Al Shabaab have surrendered, declares State,” Standard Media, February 23, 2016,  
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