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 attempted attack targeting Jordan in 2017; Hadi government ambassador to Russia meets with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate; human traffickers force Ethiopian migrants into Gulf of Aden

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian authorities release 746 political prisoners; ISIS claims assassination of Somali Special Forces member in Afgoi; U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctions Somali ISIS facilitator; al Shabaab militants attack Kenyan Special Forces camp in northeastern Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attempted to attack Jordan in July 2017 from Yemen, according to a UN panel of experts report. The panel reported that al Qaeda poses a more significant threat than the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in multiple regions, including Yemen and Somalia, and that AQAP plays a critical role in al Qaeda’s global propaganda campaign.[1]

President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s ambassador to Russia, Ahmed al Wahishi, met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow on February 8. Wahishi and Bogdanov discussed the civil war, humanitarian concerns, and a need for political dialogue to resolve the Yemeni crisis.[2]

AQAP militants shelled an Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces site in al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on February 6.[3]

Human traffickers forced 550 Ethiopian migrants to swim to the coast of Shabwah governorate from boats on February 9, according to the UN’s migration agency. Twenty-five of the migrants are missing. Thirty Somalis and Ethiopians died after a migrant boat capsized off the coast of Aden on January 23. Eighty-seven thousand Africans attempted to reach Yemen from the Horn of Africa in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration. Ethiopia has faced political instability since 2015 when protests erupted over government land grabs.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Ethiopian government is planning to release 746 political prisoners. The group of prisoners includes senior opposition official Andualem Arage and journalist Eskinder Nega. Ethiopian authorities arrested Nega in 2011 and sentenced him to 18 years in prison for inciting violence through online articles. Arage was sentenced to life in the same case for his role in the Unity for Democracy and Justice party. The decision comes after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced that Ethiopia would release political prisoners who protested government land grabbing in 2015.[5]

ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a photo of an ISIS militant assassinating a Somali Special Forces member in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on February 8. Afgoi’s police commander denied that ISIS is present in the area and ascribed all attacks to al Shabaab on February 5. ISIS released a video of a militant executing a Somali finance official in Afgoi on January 23.[6]

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned a Somali ISIS financier on February 9. Mohamed Mire Ali Yusuf provided financial, material, and technological support to ISIS in Somalia. Yusuf used a livestock trading business as a front for facilitating ISIS operations in Bari region, Puntland State, northeastern Somalia.[7]

Al Shabaab militants attacked a Kenyan Special Forces camp in Kotulo, Wajir County, northeastern Kenya on February 8. The militants retreated after a 90-minute battle with Kenyan forces, according to a Wajir County security official. Al Shabaab has targeted several Kenyan convoys with improvised explosive device attacks in northeastern Kenya near the Somali border in recent weeks.[8]

[1] “UN experts: Al-Qaida greater threat than IS in some places,” AP, February 8, 2018,; and “US conducted a record 131 airstrikes in Yemen last year,” Long War Journal, February 7, 2018,
[2] “Press release on Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s meeting with Yemeni Ambassador to Russia Ahmed Salem Al-Wahishi,” Russian Foreign Ministry, February 8, 2018, and “Yemen’s ambassador to Moscow meets Russian Deputy Foreign Minister,” Saba New, February 9, 2018,
[3] AQAP militants shell al Hizam site in al Mahfad, February 9, 2018, Telegram.
[4] “25 Ethiopian migrants missing off Yemen, forced into the sea,” AP, February 9, 2018,,-forced-into-the-sea; and Mohammed al Diker, Twitter, February 9, 2018,
[5] “Ethiopia pardons 746 prisoners, including journalist, dissident,” Reuters, February 8, 2018,; “Ethiopia to Free 746 Prisoners,” The New York Times, February 8, 2018,; and “Ethiopia Releases Blogger, Opposition Figure,” Voice of America, February 8, 2018,
[6] “Police Deny IS Presence Near Mogadishu,” Voice of America, February 5, 2018,; “IS Claims Assassinating Somali Special Forces Member in Afgoye,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 8, 2018, available by subscription at; “Two Somali soldiers killed in IED explosion Afgoye district,“ Radio Shabelle, February 8, 2018,; and “2 SNA Soldiers Killed In Explosion Near Afgoye,” Radio Dalsan, February 7, 2018,
[7] “ Press Releases: Treasury Sanctions ISIS Facilitators Across the Globe,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 9, 2018,; and “U.S. sanctions three people, three firms for supporting Islamic State,” Reuters, February 9, 2018,
[8] “Al shabaab carries out a massive attack in Kenya,” Radio Shabelle, February 9, 2018,; and “ Security officers fight off suspected Shabaab militants, Daily Nation, February 8, 2018,

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