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 begin offensive phase to seize Mokha city; UN Special Envoy for Yemen reviews UN peace proposal with President Hadi;  AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in Zinjibar city, Abyan governorate; AQAP militants attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in southwestern al Bayda governorate; Hadi government and popular resistance forces seize territory and ballistic missiles in Nihm district, Sana’a governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in Ma’rib governorate

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab executes Ugandan AMISOM hostage; al Shabaab militants recapture Barire town, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab militants attack AMISOM convoy near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region; UN reports on civilian deaths caused by AMISOM and SNA forces

Yemen Security Brief

  • Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government officially commenced the second phase of Operation Golden Spear on January 18. The goal of the phase is to seize Mokha city in Taiz governorate from al Houthi-Saleh forces. Clashes are ongoing in Wahija and Kadhah towns near the border between Dhubab and Mokha districts. Al Houthi-Saleh forces killed a Hadi government colonel during clashes in Dhubab district. Hadi government forces claimed to kill an al Houthi field commander near Mokha. Saudi-led coalition aircraft conducted several airstrikes near Mokha city after dropping leaflets warning civilians to stay away from military ships, military outposts, and shipping lanes. Hadi government forces are also attempting to seize Wazi'iyah district in southern Taiz governorate.[1]
  • Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi met with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to discuss a potential framework for a Yemen peace process on January 18 in Aden. Ould Cheikh Ahmed reportedly stated that a peace agreement would not remove any of President Hadi’s powers, a change from the UN framework proposed in October 2016 that would have required President Hadi to transfer his powers to a new consensus vice president. Ould Cheikh Ahmed called on President Hadi to agree to the new framework and build an inclusive government on January 17.[2]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces in Zinjibar city, southern Abyan governorate on January 18. Several AQAP militants surrounded al Hizam forces stationed at the Agriculture Office building during the attack. Al Hizam forces arrested two AQAP militants who participated in the attack.[3]
  • AQAP militants claimed an attack targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces near Rada’a district, al Bayda governorate, on January 18. AQAP claimed to kill four al Houthi-Saleh militants and seize their equipment during clashes near al Jawf village, southwestern al Bayda. AQAP claimed to “liberate” a portion of Rada’a district from al Houthi-Saleh forces on January 15.[4]
  • Hadi government and popular resistance forces seized four Zilzal-2 ballistic missiles after capturing Mount Doh in Nihm District, northeastern Sana’a governorate on January 17. Hadi government forces reportedly killed the commander of the Fourth Republican Guard Brigade and his Chief of Staff during the attack. The Republican Guard is loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.[5]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile toward Hadi government forces in Ma’rib governorate on January 17. The Saudi-led coalition intercepted the missile with a Patriot air defense system.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency published a video of militants executing a Ugandan soldier on January 17. Al Shabaab captured the soldier, identified as Massasa M.Y., during an attack on an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base in Janale, Lower Shabelle region in September 2015. The Ugandan soldier warns Ugandan and Kenyan soldiers against entering Somalia in the video. Al Shabaab also holds Kenyan troops from an attack on El Adde base in Gedo region on January 15, 2016.[7]
  • Al Shabaab militants recaptured Barire town in Lower Shabelle region after Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM forces retreated from the area on January 18. AMISOM and U.S. forces seized the town from al Shabaab militants on the previous day, January 17. An al Shabaab-linked Telegram channel claims that al Shabaab militants destroyed coalition armored vehicles and killed a number of soldiers while recapturing the town. Barire town is located 50 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.[8]
  • Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a Burundian AMISOM convoy on the outskirts of Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region on January 17. Al Shabaab conducted similar IED attacks against AMISOM targets on January 5 and 6. Al Shabaab militants temporarily seized Mahaday town on December 16 before SNA and AMISOM forces recaptured it on December 17.[9]
  • The UN reported that AMISOM and SNA forces killed 92 civilians during the last four months of 2016. The report asserts that AMISOM and SNA forces killed more civilians than al Shabaab militants killed during the same period. The report expresses concern for deteriorating security caused by al Shabaab’s explosive attack campaign in Mogadishu and guerrilla campaign in central and southern Somalia.[10]


[1] “Battle for Mokha approaching and air alliance drop leaflets in warning,” Aden Lang, January 18, 2017,,  “Commander Saif al Juhavi martyred in Mokha Front of Bab al Mandeb,” Aden Ghad, January 18, 2017,, “The death of a senior leader of al Houthi in Taiz,” Aden Lange, January 18, 2017,, “Army and the Committees of Maqbanah secure Fort Haraz in Taiz,” Sabanews, January 18, 2017,, and “Front in Abih, Al Waziyah intensifies as Southern Resistance progresses,” Aden Ghad, January 18, 2017,
[2] “The four most important items included in the revised draft of the UN deal to bring peace in Yemen,” Aden Ghad, January 18, 2017,, and UN Envoy to Yemen, Twitter, January 17, 2017,
[3] “Urgent: dead and several wounded from an attack by al Qaeda elements on an al Hizam security site in Zanjibar (detailed),” Aden Lang, January 18, 2017,; and “Urgent: Al Hizam security arrest of two members of the al Qaeda after the attack on a security point in Zanzibar,” Aden Lang, January 18, 2017,
[4] AQAP claims to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces near al Jawf village in al Bayda governorate, Telegram, January 18, 2017.
[5] “Army controls Zilzal missiles in Sana’a”, Barakish, January 17, 2017,, “Commander of the Fourth Brigade of Guards killed in Nihm War,” Barakish, January 17, 2017,
[6] “Breaking: Air Defense System Encountered a Ballistic Missile Launched by Militias in Ma’arib,” Aden Lange, January 17, 2017,
[7] “Ugandan soldier executed by Somalia’s al Shabaab militants,” Reuters, January 18, 2017,
[8] “US, African Union Troops capture town from Al Shabaab,” Garowe Online, January 17, 2017,; “SNA, AMISOM forces drive Al shabaab out of town,” Shabelle News, January 17, 2017,; and al Shabaab claims attack on coalition forces in Barire town, Telegram, January 18, 2017.
[9] “African Union troops targeted in southern Somalia,” Garowe Online, January 17, 2017,
[10] “SNA, AMISOM killed 92 civilians in last 4 months: UN,” Shabelle News, January 18, 2017,; and “Report of the Secretary-General on Somalia,” United Nations Security Council, January 9, 2017,
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