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: Prisoner exchange negotiations stall; UN Special Envoy arrives in Sana’a; Hadi government forces begin campaign against AQAP in Taiz city; UK and Germany fund UN Civilian Coordinator’s Office to support Stockholm Agreement; Saudi-led coalition airstrikes target al Houthi military facilities in Sana’a city; Islamic State in Yemen claims to repel al Houthi attack in al Bayda governorate

Horn of Africa: U.S. airstrike kills 52 al Shabaab militants in Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab overruns SNA bases in Sanguni; Kenyan police repulse likely al Shabaab attack in Garissa County; SNA arrests three Amniyat members in Bakool region; Somali police detain British man for boarding flight with teargas; likely al Shabaab militants detonate car bomb in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Prisoner exchange negotiations between the al Houthi movement and the President Abdu Mansour Hadi government in Jordan failed to produce an agreement on January 19. The Hadi government accused the al Houthi representatives of providing a list of false prisoners. Al Houthi representatives accused the Hadi government of withholding the names of prisoners held by the Saudi-led coalition and Emirati-backed forces, and stated that they need more time to identify these prisoners. A member of the al Houthi delegation stated on January 18 that both sides agreed to hold another round of talks at an unspecified time. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in Sana’a to discuss the ceasefire in al Hudaydah governorate, the state of the prisoner exchange, and disagreements between the al Houthi movement and UN monitoring team leader Major General Patrick Cammaert on January 21.[1]

Hadi government-aligned forces began a campaign against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in western Taiz governorate, southern Yemen on January 21. The campaign began after Hadi government forces identified the location of senior AQAP official Bilal al Wafi (also known as Abu al Walid). The 35th Armored Brigade and forces from Abu Abbas, a Salafi militia sanctioned by the U.S. for supporting AQAP and the Islamic State, are participating in the campaign.[2]

The UK and Germany provided funding to establish the UN Civilian Coordinator's Office, which will coordinate support for managing al Hudaydah, Salif, and Ras Isa ports and other civilian aspects of the Stockholm Agreement, on January 22. The UN Civilian Coordinator’s Office will also support efforts to re-establish local civilian policing through training and mentoring.[3]

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted al Houthi military facilities, including al Daylami air base, drone storage sites, and military training sites, in Sana’a city on January 19 and 20. Al Houthi media reported that the coalition conducted 24 airstrikes on Sana’a between January 19 and 20.[4]

Islamic State in Yemen militants claimed to repel an al Houthi attack in Wadi Za’j area, Wald Rabia district, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 21.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted an airstrike targeting al Shabaab near Jilib, Middle Jubba Region, southern Somalia on January 19. The airstrike killed 52 militants. AFRICOM stated that the strike was in response to an al Shabaab attack on Somali National Army (SNA) forces in the region. The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense stated that the airstrike killed more than 60 militants and destroyed four explosives-laden vehicles.[6]

Al Shabaab militants attacked SNA and Jubbaland Security Forces bases outside Sanguni village in Lower Jubba region on January 19. Al Shabaab militants attacked the bases with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) before gunmen entered the bases. Al Shabaab claimed to seize the bases and kill 41 soldiers. The SNA denied these claims, but al Shabaab released photos of its fighters looting military equipment inside the bases.[7]

Suspected al Shabaab militants attacked a Chinese-owned construction site in Garissa County, northeastern Kenya on January 20. Kenyan police repulsed the attack. The militants wounded four people before escaping.[8]

SNA forces arrested three senior al Shabaab officials in Bakool region, southwestern Somalia on January 20. The SNA claimed that the militants are members of the Amniyat, al Shabaab’s intelligence wing.[9]

Somali police detained a British man for possession of tear gas canisters at Mogadishu airport on January 20. The man was attempting to board a flight to Addis Ababa. Somali police have not said whether the man had terrorist motives.[10]

Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated a car bomb in Mogadishu on January 21. The explosion killed two people and injured three others, including two Syrian doctors.[11]

[1] Yemen’s warring sides fail to reach agreement on prisoner swap,” Al Jazeera, January 19, 2019,; and “UN Envoy arrives in Yemen on Surprise Visit,” Gulf News, January 21, 2019,

[2] “They army launches a wide-scale campaign to pursue al-Dawash west of Taiz,” 7adramout, January 21, 2019,; “A large military campaign to pursue the al-Qaeda and Taiz in Taiz,” Al Youm 8, January 22, 2019,

[3] “Foreign Secretary announces new UK funding to support UN peace process,” UK Government, January 22, 2019,

[4] “Saudi-led coalition’s planes pound Yemen’s capital,” Reuters, January 20, 2019,

[5] Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, January 22, 2019,

[6] “Al-Shabaab Degraded by U.S., Federal Government of Somalia,” United States Africa Command, January 19, 2019,; and Cara Anna, “US airstrike kills 52 al-Shabaab extremists,” Associated Press, January 19, 2019,

[7]“Shabaab claims heavy losses in Somali military ranks just one day after killing 57 Ethiopian troops,” Site Intelligence Group, January 19, 2019, English translation available by subscription at; “Somalia’s al Shabaab releases photos of military base attack,” Mareeg, January 20, 2019,; and “Somalia’s Al Shabaab overruns military base near Kismayo, 41 killed,” Mareeg, January 19, 2019,

[8] “Kenyan police repel suspected terror attack in Garissa,” The East African, January 21, 2019,

[9] “Three senior al Shabaab militants arrested in southern Somalia,” Hiiraan Online, January 22, 2019,

[10] Harun Maruf, Twitter, January 21, 2019,; “Somalia: Briton arrested at Mogadishu airport over suspicious items,” Garowe Online, January 21, 2019,; and “Somali police detain man at airport after bomb threat,” Mareeg, January 20, 2019,

[11] “Somalia: Syrian nationals injured by car explosion in Mogadishu,” Mareeg, January 22, 2019,

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