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: Hadi government forces expand objectives for Operation Golden Spear in Taiz governorate; coalition airstrike hits school in Sana’a governorate; AQAP confirms death of militant in U.S. airstrike in al Bayda; AQAP reinforces tribal relations in Abyan; protesters demonstrate against arbitrary detention in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate

Horn of Africa: Senior al Shabaab commander surrenders in Gedo region; U.S. AFRICOM conducts self-defense airstrike against al Shabaab fighters in Gadud, Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab claims grenade attack on government militia in Afgoi town, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab executes three civilians in Buale town, Middle Jubba region; Galmudug parliament votes to impeach regional president

Yemen Security Brief

  • Military sources allied with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government announced on January 10 that Operation Golden Spear, which aims to drive al Houthi-Saleh forces away from the Bab al Mandab Strait, is progressing successfully. A government spokesman added the seizure of al Wazi’iyah district in southern Taiz governorate to the operation’s stated goals for the coming weeks. Hadi government forces plan to expand the scope of the battle in the next two days as reinforcements arrive near the Bab al Mandab Strait. Emirati Special Forces may be participating in the operation. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to repel Hadi government forces and kill two Hadi government soldiers in Taiz city on January 10.[1]
  • A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit al Filah School in Nihm district, northeastern Sana’a governorate on January 10. The airstrike killed between two and eight children. The coalition last conducted an airstrike that killed civilians in Sana’a on October 8, 2016, when a strike on a funeral hall killed more than 100 people. The Saudi government reviewed its rules of engagement after the October 8 strike.[2]
  • Hadi government forces repelled an al Houthi-Saleh attack in Usaylan District, northwestern Shabwah governorate on January 10, killing an estimated seventeen al Houthi-Saleh fighters. Hadi government forces killed an additional thirteen al Houthi-Saleh soldiers in Bayhan district, Shabwah governorate on January 10. Hadi government and al Houthi-Saleh forces are contesting Usaylan and Bayhan districts because they contain a major roadway that passed through Ma’rib governorate to Sana’a city.[3]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) confirmed that a U.S. airstrike killed an AQAP militant named Abd al Hamid al Rasas in al Bayda governorate on January 8. Local news referred to the militant as a high-ranking member. AQAP did not comment on his role.[4]
  • AQAP continues to emphasize its tribal relationships in Yemen. An AQAP commander in Shabwah governorate responded to tribal leaders demanding that AQAP handover the militants responsible for a December 24 attack on Azzan market, Shabwah governorate. The AQAP commander explained that the man that was targeted was part of an Emirati-backed counterterrorism force and reiterated AQAP’s warning not to join foreign or government security forces. AQAP also released a zamil, a form of poetry popular among Yemeni tribes, on its successes in al Bayda governorate. Suspected AQAP militants intercepted and stole a truck transporting the bodies of southern popular resistance fighters from northern Yemen to Abyan governorate on January 9. Militants reportedly returned the truck on January 10 to local authorities due to pressure from local tribes.[5]
  • Civilians protested around al Mukalla airport, Hadramawt governorate, on January 9 in response to alleged arbitrary detentions conducted by the Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces.  The Hadhrami Elite Force, an Emirati-backed militia, reportedly accused the detainees of terrorist activities. Protesters are calling on the UAE to ensure the release of innocent detainees. Yemeni officials have released contradictory statements that refused to provide evidence for the suspects’ detention and at times denied the existence of the detainees. Tribal militias also blocked the main road connecting Ataq, Shabwah governorate with al Mukalla to protest the detentions.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Senior al Shabaab commander Mohamed Abdullahi Hashi Iiro surrendered to Somali authorities in Garbaharey district in Gedo region on January 9. Hashi Iiro was al Shabaab’s taxation minister in Tulo-Barqawo area near Garbaharey. Hashi Iiro is one of the highest ranking al Shabaab leaders to defect since the Somali government announced amnesty for al Shabaab defectors in late 2014.[7]
  • United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced that U.S. forces conducted a coordinated self-defense airstrike against al Shabaab fighters in Gadud, Lower Jubba region on January 7. The strike defended Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces from an al Shabaab attack The U.S. conducted the self-defense strike to neutralize the threat to partner forces. AFRICOM stated that the operation killed no enemy fighters.[8]
  • Al Shabaab claimed a grenade attack on government militia at a security checkpoint in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region on January 9. The group claimed to kill a number of militiamen in the attack.[9]
  • Al Shabaab executed three men in Buale town, Middle Jubba region. Al Shabaab accused two of the men of homosexuality and the third of spying for Ethiopian forces.[10]
  • The Galmudug administration parliament voted no confidence in President Abdikarim Hussein Guled. The regional parliament criticized Guled for his incompetence. President Guled claimed the impeachment vote was illegitimate because the parliamentary session violated procedure.[11]


[1] “Golden Spear Operation enters its fourth day, this is what has been achieved so far”, Aden Ghad, January 10, 2017,, and “Two mercenaries killed in Taiz,” al Masirah, January 10, 2017, id=3.
[2] “Yemen conflict: Primary school 'hit in air strike,'” BBC News, January 10, 2016,, and “Gulf of Aden Security Review: October 18, 2016” AEIs Critical Threats Project, October 18, 2016,
[3] “17 Killed by Militia in Asilan Battles,” Aden Ghad, January 10, 2017, and “13 Huthi militiamen killed in thwarted Shabwa attack,” Aden Ghad, January 10, 2017,
[4] AQAP announces the martyrdom of an AQAP militant from a U.S. airstrike in al Bayda, Telegram, January 8, 2016.
[5] AQAP Clarifies Assassination Video Clip, Claims Attacks in Abyan, al-Bayda’, and Ibb, January 9, 2017, available by subscription at; AQAP share Zamil on its victories in al Bayda, Telegram, January 9, 2017; “Unnamed al-Qaeda elements encountered in a special vehicle from the Najran front,” Aden Lang, January 9, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, January 10, 2017,
[6] “A protest and sit-in for the families of the detainees near Rayyan Mukalla airport to demand the release of their relatives (Photo),” al Mawqae, January 9, 2017,; and “Tribesmen block the border port to Ma’rib to demand that authorities release two detainees,” al Masdar, January 8, 2017,
[7] “Senior Al Shabaab commander surrenders,” Shabelle News, January 10, 2017,
[8] “U.S. Self-Defense Strike in Somalia,” U.S. AFRICOM, January 10, 2017,
[9] Al Shabaab kills a number of government militia in grenade bombing, Telegram, January 10, 2017.
[10] Al Shabaab court in Buale town executes three men, Twitter, January 10, 2017,; and Juba Islamic Court executes two homosexuals and one Ethiopian spy, Telegram, January 10, 2017.
[11] “Galmudug parliament votes to sack president Abdikarim Guled,” Radio Dalsan, January 10, 2017,; “Galmudug president calls MPs’ move as unlawful,” Shabelle News, January 10, 2017,; and Galmudug regional parliament votes to sack President Abdikarim Guled due to incompetence, Twitter, January 10, 2017,
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