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 emir condemns January 29 U.S. raid in Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to fire ballistic missile toward military base near Riyadh; Saudi Arabia to maintain naval presence in the Gulf of Aden following suicide boat attack; Sudan to deploy more troops to Yemen; AQAP executes presidential guard in Abyan; Emirati soldier killed in Yemen
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab executes four men in Jamame district, Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab militants ambush SNA convoy near Kismayo, Lower Jubba region; SNA and AMISOM forces conduct security operations in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emir Qasim al Raymi condemned the January 29 U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) raid on an AQAP headquarters in northwestern al Bayda governorate in a speech released on February 4. Al Raymi stated that U.S. forces killed 14 men, including two high ranking AQAP officials, and 11 women and children. He also claimed that AQAP militants downed two helicopters. The Pentagon reported that one helicopter was damaged during the raid. Al Raymi claimed the raid showed America’s “true ugly face” and stated that the outcome of the raid is a slap in the face to U.S. President Donald Trump. Al Raymi framed the U.S. raid as further evidence of alleged U.S. cooperation with the Shia al Houthi movement and emphasized AQAP’s role as the protector of Yemen’s Sunni population. Al Raymi also praised the AQAP-allied Qurayshiya tribe in al Bayda and the other tribes that have supported AQAP in Yemen.
- Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to test-fire a long-distance “Borkan-2” ballistic missile toward a Saudi military base in al Muzahimiyah, west of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, on February 5. The missile’s range is likely insufficient to reach this target. The claim coincides with a meeting between Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi Chief of General Intelligence Khalid Humaidan in Riyadh on February 5.
- The Saudi Council of Ministers announced on February 6 that Saudi Arabia will maintain a naval presence in the Gulf of Aden. The statement follows an al Houthi-Saleh small boat attack on a Saudi frigate off the coast of al Hudaydah governorate on January 30. A security video from the frigate, released on February 6, confirms that attackers used a suicide boat to ram the frigate’s rear port side.
- Sudanese President Omar al Bashir announced that Sudan will deploy additional troops to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Al Bashir cited concerns of “Iranian cells” in Sudan, which he attributed to Iranian efforts to exacerbate sectarian tensions in the region. Sudanese forces are present in Aden and reportedly participate in the coalition’s campaign to seize al Houthi-Saleh positions in coastal al Hudaydah governorate. Saudi Arabia reportedly gave Sudan $2.2 billion in aid in exchange for its participation in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
- AQAP militants abducted and executed a member of President Hadi’s presidential guard in Abyan governorate on February 5. Residents found the body of the guard near President Hadi’s home in Abyan. AQAP militants reportedly abducted the guard at a checkpoint near Lawder, from which local security forces recently withdrew. Abyan Security Chief Abdullah al Fadhli submitted his resignation on February 4, citing political disagreement with the Saudi-led coalition. Leaders of the al Hizam Brigade, an Emirati-backed security force, called for al Fadhli’s resignation in an open letter published on January 18.
- Emirati government sources announced the death of an Emirati corporal participating in combat operations in Yemen. The soldier participated in the Saudi-led coalition’s Operation Restoring Hope, which supports Hadi government forces against the al Houthi-Saleh faction.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants publicly executed four men in Lower Jubba region in southern Somalia on February 5. Al Shabaab accused the men of spying for the U.S., Kenya, and the Somali Federal Government. Al Shabaab beheaded the men in Jamame district, a former al Shabaab stronghold located 70 kilometers north of Kismayo city. Al Shabaab conducted similar public executions in Bay region on January 26 and Middle Jubba region on January 10.
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Somali National Army (SNA) convoy with a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) in the Goobweyn area outside Kismayo, Lower Jubba region in southern Somalia on February 4. The attack killed three SNA soldiers and wounded several others. Al Shabaab frequently clashes with AMISOM and Somali security forces for control over strategic locations in southern Somalia. Kenyan forces drove al Shabaab out of Kismayo, the last major population center held by the militant group, in 2012.
- SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces conducted security operations in the Wadajir and Waberi districts of Mogadishu on February 4. SNA and AMISOM troops searched houses and vehicles in an effort to disrupt potential al Shabaab attacks expected to occur in the coming days. The operations are likely an attempt to secure Mogadishu before Somalia’s much-delayed presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place on February 8.