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: Anti-al Houthi forces seize Hays city, al Hudaydah governorate; AQAP militants attack al Houthi forces in al Bayda governorate; ISIS sniper kills al Houthi troops in al Bayda governorate

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian court sentences opposition leader for contempt of court; suspected al Shabaab militants assassinate former mayor of Bulo-Burde; Afgoi officials deny ISIS presence; Somali court sentences al Shabaab mastermind of October 2017 bombing in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi-led coalition backed forces took control of Hays city in al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on February 5. Coalition-backed forces initially claimed to control Hays in December after reinvigorating an offensive to seize Yemen’s western coast up to al Hudaydah city. Coalition-backed forces also took control of several villages in a valley south of Hays. Al Houthi forces destroyed a bridge leading to al Jarrahi district, neighboring Hays to the north, during their retreat.[1]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked al Houthi forces three times in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on February 4. AQAP militants detonated two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Hamra area, al Sawmah district, southern al Bayda and conducted a two-hour assault on the al Quraishyah district building in northwestern al Bayda.[2]

An Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda sniper killed two al Houthi troops in al Zahra area, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. ISIS last attacked al Houthi forces in al Bayda on January 9.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

An Ethiopian court sentenced senior opposition leader Bekele Gerba to six months in jail for contempt of court on February 5. The court sentenced Gerba because he raised his hand rather than standing when addressed by the judge. Gerba was secretary-general of an opposition group, the Oromo Federalist Congress, in 2015. The government previously charged Gerba with terrorism in April 2016 but later reduced the charge to inciting violence in July 2017. The latest ruling comes despite the Ethiopian government’s pledge to release political detainees in late 2017. Ethiopia has released over 2,000 political prisoners since January 2018.[4]

Suspected al Shabaab militants assassinated the former mayor of Bulo-Burde, Abdi Idow Sabriye, in Beledweyne in Hiraan region, central Somalia on February 5. Sabriye served as the mayor of Bulo-Burde during President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s administration from 2006-2009. Beledweyne is a strategic junction on a highway that connects central Somalia and Ethiopia.[5]

Security officials denied the presence of pro-ISIS militants in Afgoi. A pro-ISIS cell has claimed responsibility for attacks in the area since late 2017. Security officials insisted that only al Shabaab conducts attacks in Afgoi. Afgoi is an agricultural town on a road that links the capital of Mogadishu to the southern and southwestern regions of Somalia. Al Shabaab has attacked Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces along the roads connected to Mogadishu in recent weeks.[6]

A Somali military court sentenced an al Shabaab militant Hassan Aden Isak to death for masterminding the October 2017 truck bombing that killed over 500 people in Mogadishu. The court also sentenced a second militant, Ibrahim Hassan Absuge, to life imprisonment for procuring the vehicle used in the attack. The October 14 bombing was the deadliest attack in Somalia’s history.[7]

[1] “Government forces stormed the city of Hays south of Hodeidah following an attack and battles against the Houthis,” Al Masdar, February 5, 2018,; and “Government forces and southern resistance begin the first al Jarrahi battles, and the militia blows up the bridge between Hays and al Jarrahi,” Aden al Hadath, February 6, 2018,
[2] AQAP attacks al Houthi forces in Hamra, Telegram, February 5, 2018; AQAP attacks al Houthi forces in al Quraishyah district, Telegram, February 5, 2018; AQAP detonated an IED in Hamra, February 5, 2018, Telegram; and Elisabeth Kendall, February 5, 2018,
[3] Elisabeth Kendall, February 5, 2018,
[4] “Ethiopia sentences opposition leader to six months in jail for contempt of court,” Reuters, February 5, 2018,; and “News: Federal court hands six more months in contempt of court against high profile opposition party defendants,” Addis Standard, February 5, 2018,
[5] “Buloburde Ex Mayor Shot Dead In Beledweyne,” Radio Dalsan, February 5, 2018,; and “Breaking: Former Buloburde Mayor shot dead in Beled Weyne,” Hiiraan Online, February 5, 2018,
[6] “Police Deny IS Presence Near Mogadishu,” Vo\ice of America, February 5, 2018,
[7] “Somali Military Court To Execute October 14 Bombing Mastermind,” Radio Dalsan, February 6, 2018,; “Death sentence for man convicted of Somalia's deadliest bombing,” AFP, February 6, 2018,; and “Somali military court sentences militants for role in deadly blast,” Radio Shabelle, February 6, 2018,

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