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: Saudi-led coalition conducts retaliatory airstrikes against al Houthis near Sana’a; al Houthis shell residential neighborhoods in Hudaydah governorate

Horn of Africa: Senior al Shabaab member defects to Somali government; Somali musician arrested for al Shabaab ties

Yemen Security Brief

The Saudi-led coalition retaliated against a recent al Houthi attack by conducting airstrikes targeting al Houthi militants in Nihm district in Sana’a governorate, about 37 miles northeast of Yemen’s capital Sana’a, on January 21. The airstrikes killed at least 35 people. Al Houthi and Saudi-led coalition forces also exchanged rocket and artillery fire in Nihm district. Suspected al Houthi militants launched a ballistic missile and drone attack on a military training camp housing forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in northwestern Ma’rib governorate on January 18 in one of the highest-casualty attacks in Yemen’s civil war thus far.[1]

Al Houthi forces attacked residential neighborhoods using firearms in Hayes district in southern Hudaydah governorate on January 21, according to an anti–al Houthi source.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Zubair al Muhajir, a senior al Shabaab foreign fighter, defected to the Somali Federal Government in October 2019. Al Muhajir served as the head of al Shabaab’s committee to settle an internal dispute between the group’s former leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and three other commanders. Al Muhajir said he defected from al Shabaab due to his frustration with the organization’s hypocrisy in its implementation of shari’a law. Al Muhajir currently resides at a government safe house[3]

The Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) arrested a well-known Somali musician, Abshir Garane Ahmed, for his ties to al Shabaab. Ahmed confessed to being an informer and finance officer for the group.[4]

[1] Ahmed al Haj, “Saudi-led coalition resumes airstrikes near Yemeni capital,” AP, January 21, 2020,; Jessica Kocan, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – January 21, 2019” Critical Threats Project and the American Enterprise Institute, January 21, 2020,; and “Yemeni Army Advances toward Sanaa as Houthis suffer losses,” Al Arabiya, January 22, 20,

[2] “Houthi militia continues its crimes and shells residential neighborhoods in Hayes,” 7adramout, January 22, 2020,

[3] Harun Maruf, “Senior al-Shabaab Foreign Fighter Defects in Somalia,” VOA, January 21, 2020,

[4] “Somalia’s spy agency arrests musician over links to al-Shabaab,” Garowe, January 22, 2020,; and Abdulaziz Billow Ali, Twitter, January 21, 2020,

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