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 emphasizes need for militants to guard secrets; al Houthi forces launch two ballistic missiles at Saudi-led coalition and Hadi government forces; AQAP social media identifies militants killed by airstrikes; AQAP militants kill al Houthi supplier in al Dhaleh governorate, central Yemen; AQAP militants shell Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: SNA special forces capture al Shabaab stronghold in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia; moderate Sufi militant group merges with Galmudug State to certify power sharing agreement; Ethiopian government releases opposition leader from prison; SFG investigates destruction of IDP camps near Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emphasized the need for its militants to guard secrets in a 37 minute video released by the group’s al Malahem Media Foundation on January 17. The video featured multiple alleged spies who discuss the means by which they procured information from AQAP. The video also claims careless cell phone and internet usage enables U.S. forces to target AQAP militants. AQAP banned its militants from using cell phones and online communication at the end of the video.[1]

Al Houthi forces launched two ballistic missiles at Saudi-led coalition and Hadi government forces. Al Houthi forces fired a Zilzal-1 missile at coalition-backed forces in Yakhtul, Taiz governorate, western Yemen on January 17 and a short-range missile at a Saudi air defense camp in Najran, southwestern Saudi Arabia on January 18, according to al Houthi-affiliated media. Saudi air defenses reportedly intercepted both missiles.[2] 

Pro-AQAP social media channels identified militants killed by U.S. airstrikes in al Quraishyah district, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 12. The airstrikes killed Abu Abdullah al Ibbi, an assistant to AQAP official and former Taiz-based Sharia judge Abu Baraa al Ibbi, as well as three other AQAP militants.[3]

AQAP militants killed an al Houthi supplier in Damt district, al Dhaleh governorate, central Yemen on January 17. AQAP militants also damaged the supplier’s facility near the border of al Dhaleh, al Bayda, and Ibb governorates.[4]

AQAP militants shelled Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces in al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on January 17. AQAP militants frequently target al Hizam forces in reprisal for al Hizam’s attempt to clear al Mahfad of AQAP militants.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S.-backed Somali National Army (SNA) Danab special forces captured the al Shabaab stronghold of Bar Sanguni town, Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on January 18. A U.S. drone strike killed 11 militants in the stronghold on January 17. The stronghold is located approximately 25 miles north of Kismayo, Lower Jubba.[6] 

The moderate Sufi militant group Ahlu Sunna Wa al Jama’a (ASWJ) merged with the Galmudug State administration in Dhusamareb, Galgadud region, central Somalia during an official ceremony on January 18. ASWJ transferred control of Galdmudug’s capital Dhusamareb to the state after administering the city since 2014. ASWJ and the Galmudug State signed a power sharing agreement on December 6 to merge both sides’ territory, forces, and governments.[7]

Ethiopia released Oromo opposition leader Meera Gudina from prison on January 17. The Ethiopian government detained Gudina in December 2016 for leading protests against the government. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn pledged to release over 500 political prisoners, including Gudina, and draft social and political reforms in early January 2018 in response to protests and ethnic violence that began in October 2017.[8]

The Somali Federal Government (SFG) will investigate the destruction of 20 internally displaced person (IDP) camps near Mogadishu, which displaced over 20,000 Somalis. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Somali head Peter De Clercq denounced the SFG’s demolition of the IDP camps on December 29 and 30, 2017.[9]

[1] “AQAP video stresses importance of fighters guarding secrets, highlights espionage among spies in its ranks,” SITE, January 18, 2018, available by subscription at; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, January 17, 2018,; and Maher Farrukh, Twitter, January 17, 2018,
[2] “The launch of a Zilzal-1 missile on the gatherings of the hypocrites of the Aggression, north of Yakhtul in Taiz,” Al Masirah, January 17, 2018,; “A short-range ballistic missile hits the Saudi air defense camp in Najran,” Al Masirah, January 18, 2018,; “The air defenses of the Coalition intercept the ballistic missile launched by Houthi militants in Mokha,” Al Masdar, January 17, 2018,; and “In two days, Saudi intercepts the second ballistic missile launched by the Houthis at Najran city,” Al Masdar, January 18, 2018,
[3] AQAP identifies militants killed by U.S. airstrikes, Telegram, January 17, 2018; and Demolinari, Twitter, January 17, 2018,
[4] AQAP militants kill al Houthi supplier, Telegram, January 17, 2018.
[5] AQAP militants shell al Hizam position, Telegram, January 17, 2018.
[6] “Tension as Somali forces close in on Al Shabaab stronghold,” Radio Shabelle, January 18, 2018,; “Somalia: IED blasts hit U.S., AU convoy outside Kismayo,” Garowe Online, January 18, 2018,; and Garowe Online, Twitter, January 18, 2018,
[7] “ASWJ-Galmudug Merger Will Boost War On Alshabaab, Farmaajo Says,” Radio Dalsan, January 18, 2018,; “Galmudug and ASWJ sign historic merger in Dhusamareb,” Hiraan Online, January 17, 2018,
[8] “Merera Gudina, Ethiopia opposition leader, freed,” BBC, January 17, 2018,
[9] “Somalia to Probe Evictions of Thousands of Displaced Families,” Citizen TV, January 18, 2018,

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