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 confirms emir’s death and announces his successor; Saudi-led coalition disrupts al Houthi attack in Red Sea; US Customs and Border Protection arrests three Yemeni citizens in San Diego, CA

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM conducts two airstrikes targeting al Shabaab; Oromo Liberation Army bombs Ethiopian political rally; al Shabaab targets AMISOM base with mortars; Somali South West State forces attack al Shabaab tax collection site

Yemen Security Brief:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) confirmed the death of its emir Qasim al Raymi in an audio speech released on February 23. A US airstrike killed Raymi in northern Yemen in late January. Hamid bin Hamoud al Tamimi, an AQAP religious official, announced Khalid bin Umar Batarfi as AQAP’s new leader. Batarfi is a longtime spokesman and senior official for AQAP who has recently overseen the group’s external operations.[1]

The Saudi-led coalition naval forces stopped an attack by the al Houthi movement in the southern Red Sea on February 23. The coalition forces destroyed an unmanned boat carrying explosives that the militants launched from Yemen’s western al Hudaydah governorate.[2]

US Customs and Border Protection arrested three Yemeni citizens trying to enter the US illegally in a vessel in San Diego, California on February 21. The port of San Diego’s Joint Harbor Operations Center stated that Yemeni migrants are uncommon on the southern US border.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted two airstrikes targeting al Shabaab compounds and militants near the towns of Saakow and Dujuuma in Somalia’s southern Middle Jubba region on February 22 and February 23 respectively. The strike near Saakow killed two militants, injured one, and destroyed a compound. The strike near Dujuuma injured three militants and destroyed a compound. These are the seventh and eighth airstrikes AFRICOM has conducted in Somalia this month.[4]

Ethiopian militants from the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) conducted a bomb attack targeting a pro-government political rally in the town of Ambo in the Oromia region west of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on February 23. The OLA is an armed splinter of opposition party Oromo Liberation Front. The attack injured 29 people. The attack follows the assassination of an Ethiopian security official in the nearby town of Burayu on February 21.[5]

Al Shabaab fighters launched a mortar and direct fire attack on a Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base near the town of Mahaday in the Middle Shabelle region north of Mogadishu on February 24. Neither al Shabaab nor AMISOM have commented on the attack. Al Shabaab most recently attacked a Ugandan AMISOM base near Qoryoley village in Somalia’s southern Lower Shabelle region on February 19.[6]

Regional security forces from Somalia’s South West State attacked and seized an al Shabaab tax collection site in the village of Buur Heybe in Somalia’s south-central Bay region on February 22. The local forces killed three al Shabaab militants and seized 800 bags of maize extorted from local farmers. The Somali police conducted a similar operation against al Shabaab tax collectors in the Middle Shabelle region on February 21.[7]

[1] “AQAP confirms death of leader Qassim al-Rimi, announces successor,” SITE intelligence group, February 23, 2020, available by subscription at; “Letter dated 20 January 2020 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities address to the President of the Security Council,” UN, January 20, 2020,; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – February 06, 2020,” February 06, 2020, Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute,

[2] “Saudi-led coalition says it foiled Red Sea attack by Yemen’s Houthis,” Reuters, February 24, 2020,

[3] “CBP arrests three Yemeni nationals arriving in San Diego by boat,” The Maritime Executive, February 24, 2020,

[4] “Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM target al-Shabaab,” AFRICOM, February 23, 2020,; and “Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM conduct airstrike against al-Shabaab,” AFRICOM, February 23, 2020,

[5] “29 injured in 'bomb attack' at pro-Abiy rally,” Daily Nation, February 24, 2020,

[6] Abdirisak M Tuuryare, “Mortar and gun attack hit AU soldiers' base in Somalia,” Mareeg, February 24, 2020,

[7] “Southwest regional forces seize 800 bags of maize forcibly taken by al-Shabab from farmers,” Goobjoob, February 23, 2020,; and Pamela Makadsi, Minatullah Alobaidi, and Sam Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - February 21, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 21, 2020,

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