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: Russia to resume projects in Yemen after single government is formed; Saudi Arabia deploys reinforcements to eastern Yemen; Human Rights Watch accuses Yemen war belligerents of failing to investigate war crimes; AQAP IED strikes Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; AQAP militants kill al Houthi soldier in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; AQAP militants ambush convoy of Security Head in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen

Horn of Africa: SNA forces rescue children from al Shabaab in Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia; U.S. airstrike hits al Shabaab militants in Lower Jubba region

Yemen Security Brief

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on January 19 its intention to resume trade, economic, cultural, and education projects in Yemen after a single government body is formed. Internationally recognized Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik Mikhlafi will visit Moscow on January 21. Russia has maintained diplomatic relations with the al Houthi-Saleh government and the Hadi government but relocated its diplomatic staff in Sana’a to Saudi Arabia after al Houthi forces killed former President Saleh.[1] 

Saudi Arabia increased its presence in eastern Yemen to combat smuggling routes. Saudi military reinforcements arrived at al Ghaydah port in al Mahrah governorate on January 18. Saudi Arabia began sending military equipment to al Mahrah in mid-November 2017. Mahri tribal leaders reaffirmed their willingness to cooperate with the Saudi-led coalition’s anti-smuggling efforts in late December 2017. The coalition pledged to coordinate with local authorities and not to empower select tribes. Iran has used smuggling routes through al Mahrah to support the al Houthi movement throughout the civil war.[2]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that none of the Yemen war belligerents credibly investigated their alleged war crimes in an annual report. The report warns that the U.S., UK, and other countries risk complicity in war crimes by providing Saudi Arabia with weapons. Belligerents have deepened the humanitarian crisis by using cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, and by arbitrarily detaining and indiscriminately targeting civilians.[3]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) that killed two Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces troops in al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on January 19. Al Hizam Security Forces are attempting to clear AQAP from al Mahfad, which connects southern and eastern Yemen.[4]

AQAP militants killed an al Houthi fighter in Wald Rabi’ district, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 18. AQAP’s official social media channel also published a video dated December 2017 of AQAP militants attacking al Houthi forces in al Bayda. AQAP militants fight alongside local militias against al Houthi forces in al Bayda governorate to gain support from the local population.[5]

AQAP militants ambushed the car of Hajar district’s Security Head in Hajar district, Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on January 18. The militants killed four soldiers in the convoy of the Security Head, Ahmed bin Dagar. Hajar is located next to al Mukalla district, where AQAP militants established a governing administration in 2015.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S.-trained Somali National Army (SNA) Danab special forces rescued 32 children from an al Shabaab training facility near Jameco village in Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on January 18. The Danab special forces also killed four al Shabaab militants, including al Shabaab’s commander in Jameco. Al Shabaab confirmed the raid but claimed that SNA soldiers and air support killed four children and a teacher.  Al Shabaab rejected a Human Rights Watch report detailing its coercion of child soldiers but stated that children over age 15 can join the group after completing its education program.[7]  

A U.S. airstrike in support of SNA forces killed four al Shabaab militants approximately 30 miles northwest of Kismayo in southern Somalia on January 18. U.S. Africa Command confirmed the strike. This attack follows a reported U.S. drone strike targeting al Shabaab northwest of Kismayo on January 17 after the group ambushed SNA forces in the area. SNA Danab special forces captured the al Shabaab stronghold of Bar Sanguni near Kismayo on January 18.[8]

[1] “Russia ready to resume implementation of projects in Yemen after situation improves,” TASS, January 19, 2018,
[2]A third batch of Saudi military reinforcements arrived in al Mahrah on Thursday,” Elsaa News, January 19, 2018,
[3] “Yemen: All Sides Fuel Humanitarian Crisis,” Human Rights Watch, January 18, 2018,; and “World Report 2018,” Human Rights Watch, January 18, 2018,
[4] AQAP militants detonate IED in al Mahfad, Telegram, January 19, 2018.
[5] AQAP militants kill al Houthi soldier in Rada’a, Telegram, January 18, 2018; and Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, January 18, 2018,
[6] AQAP militants ambush car of Hajar’s Security Head, Telegram, January 18, 2018; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, January 18, 2018,
[7] “Somali authorities say troops rescue 32 children from 'terrorist school',” Reuters, January 19, 2018,; US-backed Somalia commandos kill 4 al-Shabab extremists,” Washington Post, January 19, 2018,; Feisal Omar and Nita Bhalla, “Somalia's al Shabaab denies forcibly recruiting children to fight,” Reuters, January 18, 2018,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, January 19, 2018,
[8] “U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” AFRICOM, January 19, 2018,

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