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: Al Qaeda-linked militants seize southern town; Norwegian UN official kidnapped; Foreign Minister hints at election delay; heavy clashes between al Houthis and tribesmen in Sa’ada; two Yemeni soldiers executed by al Qaeda-linked militants in Abyan; soldier killed in clashes between the Republican Guard and civilians in Taiz; protesters in Taiz demand punishment for perpetrators of civilian deaths in Aden; four soldiers killed and commander wounded during clashes in the Republican Guards’ Farijah base; opposition group forms commission to negotiate with al Houthis

Horn of Africa: UN agencies visit Beledweyne; Kenyan airstrikes target al Shabaab in Somalia; fighting erupts near Beledweyne; landmine in Gedo region targets Ethiopian troops; clashes between Somaliland state forces and tribal militias break out; at least five al Shabaab militants surrender to Gedo government troops; five dead in Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama'a and Shabelle Valley Administration clash in Beledweyne; TFG soldier shoots and kills Ugandan soldier in Mogadishu; explosion rips through Ethiopian base in Beledweyne; 29 Ugandans suspected of trying to join al Shabaab arrested in Nairobi; eight dead from Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama'a and Ogaden National Liberation Front clash in Galgudud region; TFG troops capture five villages in Hiraan region

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda-linked militants captured the town of Rada'a, in al Bayda governorate, on January 14. The town is about 100 miles south of the capital, Sana’a. About 200 militants stormed the town and freed local Islamists being held in prison, some of whom joined the armed group. The group is reportedly led by Tareq al Dhahab, whose sister was married to Anwar al Awlaki, a former leader in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) killed last September. The fighters raised their flag in the town’s citadel and pledged their allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Sheikh Khaled al Dhahab, Tareq al Dhahab’s brother, said the seizure of the town was coordinated with  forces from the National Security Bureau, under the command of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew Amar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, and with defector Rashad al Masri, the former Minister of the Interior who has “coordinated with Tariq for some time.”[1]
  • Armed men of the Obeyid Ma’rib tribe kidnapped a Norwegian UN official late on the night of January 14 in Sana’a. The official was in the country to help oversee presidential elections next month. The tribesmen demanded the release of a jailed tribal leader. The Norwegian was later taken to Ma’rib governorate.[2] 
  • Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said in an interview with al Arabiya TV that presidential elections planned for February may have to be postponed in light of the security situation.[3]
  • Forty-seven people were killed in fighting between the al Houthis and a tribal alliance in Kitaf, in Sa’ada governorate. A night attack was launched by al Houthis in an attempt to take a mountain position that had been seized by the tribes two weeks ago.[4]
  • Yemeni military authorities report that two of their soldiers, captured two months ago, were executed by al Qaeda-linked militants in Abyan governorate.[5]
  • One person was killed in clashes between the 33rd brigade of the Republican Guard and civilians in Taiz on the night of January 15.[6]
  • Thousands of young revolutionaries in Taiz protested in opposition to the amnesty law that, if passed by the Yemeni parliament, would shield outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his aides from any prosecution. They also demanded the arrest of those responsible for the killings of four civilians in Aden on January 13.[7]
  • The commander of the Republican Guard’s 62nd brigade was injured and four soldiers were killed on January 16 during clashes among soldiers in a Republican Guard base in Farijah, just north of Sana’a. Protests demanding the resignation of the brigade commander, Brigadier General Mohammad Hussein al Bokhaiti, began two days ago. The soldiers accuse al Bokhaiti of corruption and human rights violations.[8]
  • The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), the umbrella opposition group, announced the formation of a commission tasked with negotiating with the al Houthis.[9]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • United Nations (UN) Agencies are visiting Beledweyne for the first time since al Shabaab was pushed out in late December. The agencies include World Food Program (WFP), Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The purpose of the visit is to analyze the security situation on the ground prior to operating in the town.[10]
  • Kenyan military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir reported Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) gunship attacks on Tatar in Lower Jubba region on January 17. The gunships killed six al Shabaab militants and disabled three vehicles.[11]
  • A local resident stated that nine al Shabaab militants were killed by a KDF air raid on Afmadow in southern Somalia on January 16. On January 15, KDF also confirmed an airstrike on Jilib and Bibi towns in southern Somalia targeting al Shabaab vehicles and command centers. Kenyan Major Chirchir reported eight vehicles destroyed and an unspecified number of al Shabaab militants killed.[12]
  • Fighting between al Shabaab militants and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers erupted near Beledweyne in Hiraan region in Somalia late on January 16. Residents reported the use of heavy weaponry and an unreported number of casualties on both sides.[13]
  • Security officials reported that a landmine targeting an Ethiopian military convoy in Luq district in Gedo region killed at least three civilians and injured two others on January 16.[14]
  • Clashes between tribal militias and state forces in Buhoodle district in Somaliland region killed at least 12 people and wounded 20 others on January 15. The attack began when soldiers moved in and tried to take over the town. Local residents reported the use of automatic weapons and mortars.[15]
  • A Gedo region government official reported the surrender of at least five al Shabaab militants on January 15.[16]
  • Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a (ASWJ) fighters reportedly attacked Shabelle Valley Administration (SVA) leader Abdifatah Hassan Afrah in Beledweyne on January 15. An SVA official confirmed the deaths of three ASWJ and two SVA fighters and reported seven other injuries.[17]
  • On January 14, a Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldier shot and killed a Ugandan soldier on Warashadaha (Industrial) Road in Mogadishu. Officials from both African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the TFG will lead an investigation on the incident.[18]
  • Five Ethiopian soldiers were reportedly killed and two others wounded after an explosion went off in a military base in Beledweyne on January 14. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.[19]
  • Kenya’s counter-terrorist branch arrested 29 Ugandans in Nairobi who are suspected of trying to join al Shabaab on January 14.[20]
  • Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and ASWJ fighters clashed near Fadhigaradle in Galgadud region in central Somalia on January 14. Sheikh Abdiweli of ASWJ reported five ONLF and three ASWJ fighters killed, and six ONLF and four ASWJ injured. Local residents claim that after several hours of fighting ASWJ forced ONLF to retreat towards Ethiopia.[21]
  • TFG troops, backed by Ethiopian soldiers and pro-government militias from SVA, seized five villages in Hiraan region. The five villages are Bardhere, Berhano, Mahaas, Garsaani, and Tarejante. No fighting was reported as al Shabaab allegedly fled the areas prior to their arrival.[22]


[1] “Yemeni Militants Seize Rida, a Town 100 Miles from Capital,” AP, January 16, 2012. Available:
Mohammed Ghobari, “Al Qaeda Militants Tighten Grip on Yemen Town,” Reuters, January 16, 2012. Available:
“Khaled al Zahab, Brother of Militant Leader in Rada’a: Control of the City has Been Coordinated with National Security,” al Masdar Online, January 16, 2012. Available:; “Opposition Blame Saleh for Handing Over Yemen Town to al-Qaeda,” Yemen Post, January 17, 2012. Available:
“UN in Contact with Kidnapped Norwegian in Yemen: Spokesman,” AFP, January 16, 2012. Available;
[3] “Official Says Yemen Unrest Could Delay Elections,” AP, January 17, 2012. Available:
[4] “Sa’ada: 47 Killed in Fierce Night Battle Between al Houthis and Tribal Coalition Forces in Kitaf,” Mareb Press, January 17, 2012. Available:
[5] Mohammed al Kibsi, “AQAP Captures More Territories in Central and Southern Yemen,” Yemen Observer, January 15, 2012. Available:
[6] “Taiz: Violent Clashes Between Brigade 33 and Civilians…and a March Demanding Arrest of the Perpetrators of Aden Massacre,” Mareb Press, January 16, 2012. Available:
[7] “Taiz: Violent Clashes Between Brigade 33 and Civilians…and a March Demanding Arrest of the Perpetrators of Aden Massacre,” Mareb Press, January 16, 2012. Available:
[8] “Protests in Republican Guard Camp in Farijah and News of the Injury of its Commander and 4 Soldiers Killed,” Sahwa Net, January 16, 2012. Available:
[9] “Yemen Opposition Forms Commission to Talk with Houthi Group,” Yemen Post, January 16, 2012. Available:
[10] Galad Ali Ismail, “UN Agencies Visit Beledweyne,” Somalia Report, January 17, 2012. Available:
[12] “Witness: Jets Kill ‘At Least 9’ in Somalia,” AP, January 17, 2012. Available:
Tweets by Major Emmanuel Chirchir, January 16, 2012. Available:!/MajorEChirchir/status/158902665852616707
[13] “Somalia: Somali Army, Al Shabaab Clash in Central Somalia Town,” Mareeg Online, January 17, 2012. Available:,-Al-shabaab-clash-In-Central-Somalia-town&sid=22628&tirsan=3
[14] Aweys Cadde, “Ethiopian Military Suffers Landmine Attack,” Somalia Report, January 16, 2012. Available:
[15] “12 Dead, 20 Injured in Northern Battle,” Shabelle Media Network, January 15, 2012. Available:
[16] “Somalia::Al Shabaab Milita Surrendered to Government Troops,” Mareeg Online, January 15, 2012. Available:
[17] Shiine Omar, “Five Dead, Seven Wounded in Militia Fighting,” Somalia Report, January 16, 2012. Available:
[18] “Somalia: TFG Investigates Killing of Ugandan Soldier by Somali Soldier,” Raxanreeb, January 16, 2012. Available:
[19] Qanciye Farah Ilmi, “Explosions Rip Through Ethiopian Base in Hiran,” Somalia Report, January 15, 2012. Available:
[20] Galad Ali Ismail, “29 Ugandans Seeking to Join Al-Shabaab Arrested,” Somalia Report, January 14, 2012. Available:
[21] Ugaas Deeq Abdi, “8 Dead in ONLF & ASWJ Clash in Galgadud,” Somalia Report, January 14, 2012. Available:
[22] Aweys Cadde, “TFG Troops Seize Five Villages in Hiiraan,” Somalia Report, January 14, 2012. Available:
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