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: Yemen parties meet to discuss prisoner exchange; UN Security Council forms Special Political Mission to support the al Hudaydah Agreement; Emirati-backed Yemeni forces attempt to clear AQAP militants from Abyan governorate; U.S. Secretary of State discusses Yemen with Sultan of Oman

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab says Nairobi operation followed Zawahiri’s directive; protesters block highway to Djibouti in northern Ethiopia; suspected ASWJ militants kill 12 people in attacks on vehicles in northern Mozambique

Yemen Security Brief

Representatives from Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government started talks with al Houthi representatives on the prisoner exchange deal in Amman, Jordan on January 16. The talks also include representatives from the office of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The talks are expected to conclude on January 17. The Hadi government and al Houthi movement agreed to exchange thousands of prisoners in December 2018.[1]

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2452 (2019) to establish the UN Mission to support the al Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) for an initial period of six months on January 15. The resolution also approves the deployment of 75 UN monitors to Yemen. UNMHA will lead and support the already established Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in al Hudaydah, monitor compliance with the ceasefire, and work with Yemeni parties to maintain the security of al Hudaydah port.[2]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Security forces began an operation to clear al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from Wadi Omran, northern Mudia district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on January 15 but withdrew before achieving this objective. Saudi-led coalition aircraft bombed the area after al Hizam Security Forces withdrew. Al Hizam security forces previously attempted to clear Wadi Omran on December 11. Al Hizam troops also raided an AQAP base in Mahfad district on January 15. Suspected AQAP militants attempted to assassinate the leader of al Hizam Security Forces as he traveled from Mudia to Mahfad on January 15.[3]

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said to discuss regional support of the UN peace efforts in Yemen on January 14 in Muscat, Oman.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab stated that its January 15 attack on a hotel and business complex in Nairobi followed the directive of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, who called for attacks on Western targets in response to the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Al Shabaab also stated that it will continue attacks on Kenyans until the Kenyan government withdraws its forces from Somalia. Al Shabaab besieged the DusitD2 hotel on January 15 in its first major terrorist attack in Nairobi since 2013. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the prolonged attack ended early on January 16. Kenyan police arrested two suspects in Eastleigh, Nairobi and Ruaka, Kiambu County who were in contact with the attackers. Kenyan security forces rescued dozens of civilians trapped in the hotel. Al Shabaab militants killed 15 civilians during the attack, including one American.[5]

Residents in Afar Region, Ethiopia protested against increasing ethnic violence and the federal government’s efforts to expel a local militia from the region on January 14. Organizers stated that the protest will last five days. The protestors blocked the highway to Djibouti, which is the country’s main highway to the sea.[6]

Suspected Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a militants killed twelve civilians in multiple attacks in Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique between January 6 and January 13. The militants attacked cars and buses in the region. These were the first attacks against vehicles in the region. The militants previously attacked only isolated homes. The Mozambican military has increased patrols along main roads in Cabo Delgado in recent weeks.[7]

[1] “Yemen combatants start talks in Jordan on prisoner deal,” Reuters, January 16, 2019,; “UN says Yemen’s warring parties meeting in Jordan,” Associated Press, January 16, 2019,; and “Yemeni parties meet about the prisoner exchange in Amman,” Al Wattan, January 16, 2019,

[2] “UN Security Council approves up to 75 truce monitors to Yemen’s Hudaydah,” Al Arabiya, January 16, 2019,; and “Resolution 2452 (2019),” UN Security Council, January 15, 2019,

[3] “Led by Abu al Yamama, the campaign for the security belt targets al Qaeda in Abyan,” Tahdeeth Net, January 15, 2019,; “URGENT: Attacks by the Arab Coalition fighters in Wadi Omran in Mudia,” Tahdeeth Net, January 15, 2019,; Ben Ataf, Twitter, January 15, 2019,; “Commander Abu al Yamama was ambushed in Mudia,” Tahdeeth Net, January 15, 2019,; and “Abyan: Clashes between al Hizam forces and militants from al Qaeda,” Yemen Net, January 15, 2019,

[4] “Omani agreement on Yemen,” Mareb Press, January, 16, 2019,

[5] “Shabaab declares Nairobi operation as following Zawahiri’s directive, response to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 16, 2019, English translation available at; “Gunmen kill 15 in Kenya hotel compound attack claimed by Somali Islamists,” Reuters, January 15, 2019, US and British citizens are among 15 killed in Nairobi terror attack, Garowe Online, January 16, 2019, Two suspects arrested over Dusit terror attack as hunt for more goes on, Standard Digital, January 16, 2019, Shabaab media unit presents detailed report on Nairobi attack, suggests that attack bears message to Jerusalem, Site Intelligence, January 16, 2019,

[6] Ethiopia protestors block main highway to the sea, Reuters, January 14, 2019,

[7] “Suspected jihadists kill 12 in northern Mozambique,” Agence France Presse, January 15, 2019,

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