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: U.S. SOF raid on January 29 targeted AQAP emir Qasim al Raymi; U.S. may target al Houthis to counter Iran; Hadi government ambassadors voice support for Trump administration’s approach to Yemen conflict; Yemen to deploy four battalions to clear AQAP from Abyan governorate; AQAP claims to assassinate al Houthi-Saleh commanders in Ibb governorate; Hadi government forces advance in Mokha city
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate IED targeting AMISOM convoy near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region; AMISOM forces interdict al Shabaab VBIED near Afmadow town, Lower Jubba region; security forces prepare for presidential election in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
- The U.S. Special Operation Forces (SOF) raid on an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquarters in central Yemen on January 29 targeted AQAP emir Qasim al Raymi, according to unnamed U.S. military and intelligence officials. The officials identified al Raymi as the third most dangerous terrorist in the world. Al Raymi released an audio message on February 4 that taunted U.S. President Donald Trump for the operation. It is unclear at this time if al Raymi was present in the compound at the time of the raid.
- The Trump administration may be preparing to conduct operations against the al Houthis in Yemen as part of a regional strategy to counter Iran, according to unnamed U.S. officials. The U.S. deployed the USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer, to the Bab al Mandab Strait on February 3.
- Yemeni Ambassador to the U.S. Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak stated on February 7 that the Trump administration is approaching the conflict in Yemen from an “entirely different” perspective than the Obama administration. Bin Mubarak claimed that President Trump takes the Iranian presence in Yemen more seriously than his predecessor, citing the return of the USS Cole to the Red Sea and statements made by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Yemeni Ambassador to the UN Khaled Hussein al Yemani made a similar statement on February 7. Yemani stated that the U.S. may classify the al Houthi movement as a terrorist organization and confront the Iranian government over arms shipments in Yemen. Both ambassadors represent the government of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is backed by the Saudi-led coalition.
- Yemeni security officials announced on February 7 that four army battalions will begin an operation to clear AQAP militants from Abyan governorate in the near term. Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces withdrew from northern Abyan governorate on February 2. Local tribal militias filled the security vacuum. Tribal militias ambushed AQAP militants in Mudiyah district, northern Abyan governorate on February 7. Tribal militias clashed with AQAP militants in neighboring Lawder district on February 7.
- AQAP militants claimed to assassinate two al Houthi-Saleh commanders in Ibb governorate, central Yemen on January 5. AQAP militants assassinated one commander near al Makhadir, central Ibb, and another near northwestern Ibb near the al Dhaleh-Ibb border. AQAP militants also attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in Hamat Sarar village, Qayfa area, northwestern al Bayda governorate on January 6.
- The Hadi government announced that Operation Golden Spear, which aims to drive al Houthi-Saleh forces from Yemen’s western Red Sea coast, is progressing. Yemeni Armed Forces spokesman Abdu Majali stated that Hadi government forces pushed al Houthi-Saleh forces to the northwestern corner of Mokha city, Taiz governorate, in a series of operations on February 6 and 7. The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on al Houthi-Saleh targets in Taiz and al Hudaydah governorates on February 7 in support of the campaign. The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on al Houthi-Saleh targets near Jabal Nar on February 7, signaling continued fighting over a piece of terrain that Hadi government forces claimed to seize on January 26.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants ambushed an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) convoy with an improvised explosive device (IED) near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region in central Somalia on February 7. The militants opened fire on AMISOM forces after detonating the IED. Pro-al Shabaab Telegram channels claimed to force the convoy to retreat after killing several AMISOM troops. Al Shabaab militants frequently target AMISOM convoys in the Mahaday area. Al Shabaab temporarily seized Mahaday town on December 16, 2016.
- AMISOM forces interdicted an al Shabaab vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack outside of an AMISOM base near Afmadow town, Lower Jubba region in southern Somalia on February 6. Militants were driving the car toward a nearby AMISOM base in Tabda village at the time of the interdiction. Al Shabaab last attacked AMISOM and SNA forces in this area with an IED ambush on December 10, 2016. Al Shabaab militants also raided Afmadow police station and a nearby Jubbaland security forces base on October 4, 2016.
- Somali security forces implemented strict security measures in Mogadishu ahead of the presidential election set for February 8. Somalia’s Electoral Commission changed the venue of the election from the police academy in Mogadishu to Aden Adde International Airport due to security concerns. Somali security forces have barricaded most roads and shut down businesses, schools, and universities in Mogadishu in recent days. Somali security forces also swept large areas of the city for suspected al Shabaab militants on February 4 and 5. Al Shabaab militants conducted multiple attacks likely intended to disrupt the federal election process in Mogadishu in the past month. Militants attacked a hotel frequented by parliamentarians on January 25 and attempted to assassinate a parliamentarian on February 1.