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 and popular resistance forces claim to seize Mokha city, Taiz governorate; reported U.S. airstrikes target AQAP militants in al Bayda and Abyan governorates; Egypt to increase participation in Saudi-led coalition; UN Special Envoy meets with al Houthi-Saleh Foreign Minister; AQAP militants exchange artillery fire with al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate IED at SNA military base in Burhakaba, Bay region; al Shabaab militants ambush KDF convoy near Elwaq, Gedo region; SNA and AMISOM forces kill senior al Shabaab commander in raid outside Baidoa town, Bay region; Burundi drops threat to withdraw troops from AMISOM

Yemen Security Brief

  • Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and allied forces advanced into Mokha city on January 23. The Saudi-led coalition provided air and naval support. Pro-Hadi media claimed that Hadi government forces seized Mokha city, while al Houthi media claimed that al Houthi-Saleh forces repelled Hadi government forces twice outside of Mokha. Hadi government forces also claimed to capture a nearby air base. Social media reports indicate that Hadi government forces seized Mokha port and are operating inside the city’s walls, but do not control the whole city. Hadi government forces claim to have killed Mohammed Abdullah Tajuddin al Houthi, an al Houthi commander responsible for managing supply lines in Taiz governorate, on January 23.[1]
  • Two reported U.S. airstrikes targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leadership in al Sawmah district, eastern al Bayda governorate on January 20 and January 22. The airstrikes killed Abu Anas al Ibbi on January 20 and Tufayl al Taizi, along with two other militants, on January 22, according to AQAP social media channels. A reported U.S. airstrike also killed AQAP militants traveling in a vehicle between Zinjibar and Shaqra, southern Abyan governorate on January 21, according to local news sources.[2]
  • Egypt’s National Defense Council stated on January 22 that Egypt will play a larger role in combat operations in the Red Sea, Bab al Mandab Strait, and Gulf of Aden as part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Egyptian military spokesman Tamer al Rafaei defined the announcement as a plan to “renew support,” not expand operations, on January 22. Egypt’s constitution requires the Council of Ministers and the National Defense Council to convene when authorizing the deployment of Egyptian troops abroad.[3]
  • UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with al Houthi-Saleh Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah in Sana’a city to discuss peace proposals and a potential ceasefire on January 23. Ould Cheikh Ahmed did not release a statement following the meeting. Ould Cheikh Ahmed refused to meet with Foreign Minister Abdullah on January 19 after al Houthi representatives attempted to substitute the Foreign Minister for members of the General People’s Congress (GPC) party, with whom Ould Cheikh Ahmed had intended to meet. The GPC is led by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.[4]
  • AQAP militants shelled al Houthi-Saleh militants three times in al Zahir district, southern al Bayda governorate on January 20. Al Houthi-Saleh forces shelled areas of al Zahir and al Quraishi districts, where AQAP militants are fighting alongside local tribal militias against  al Houthi-Saleh forces, on January 20.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers at a military base in Burhakaba district, Bay region on January 23. Al Shabaab killed five SNA soldiers in the attack. Al Shabaab maintains operational capabilities in Bay region despite being forced from key strongholds throughout south and central Somalia during Operation Jubba Corridor in 2015. [6]
  • SNA forces backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops raided an al Shabaab hideout outside Baidoa town, Bay region, on January 21. SNA forces killed senior al Shabaab commander Abdullahi Gaab and five bodyguards in the raid. Gaab was reportedly responsible for several attacks in the Baidoa area, including an assassination attempt on a Baidoa district commissioner on December 31, 2016.[7]
  • Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) convoy near Elwaq town, Gedo region on January 20. The militants killed several KDF soldiers in the attack. KDF utilizes Elwaq, a strategic town on the Somali-Kenyan border, as a main supply route for Kenyan troops in southwestern Somalia.[8]
  • The Burundian government dropped its threat to withdraw soldiers from AMISOM after reaching an agreement with the African Union on January 20. The agreement allows the European Union (EU) to provide salary payments to the African Union, which will in turn disburse payments to Burundian troops via Burundian commercial banks. The EU kept payments to Burundian soldiers in arrears for over 12 months in compliance with current EU sanctions on the Burundian government. The Burundian government announced the implementation of procedures to withdraw its troops from Somalia on January 16. [9]


[1] “Army combs city of Mokha, controls the port, and cuts off roads to Taiz and Hodeidah”, Barakish, January 23, 2017,, “139 Killed in Al Anqlabia,” Aden Lange, January 23, 2017,, “A tank and group of mercenaries were destroyed, two vehicles seized in Mokha District, Taiz,” al Masirah, January 23, 2017,, “Photos from inside Mokha after its liberation” Twitter, January 23, 2017, @newsyamen,, “Port Mokha,” Twitter, January 23, 2017, @abufesa,, “Al Houthi leader killed in Mokha is named,” Aden Lange, January 23, 2017,, “Field Commander: Troops enter southern port of Mokha,” Aden Ghad, January 23, 2017,, “Breaking: Air campaigns and infantry advance to liberate the city of Mokha,” January 23, 2017, Aden Lange,,.
[2] “The killing of an element of al Qaeda in a drone raid al Bayda,” Barakish, January 21, 2017,; “Killing 3 of «al Qaeda» in a raid in al Bayda,” Aden Lang, January 23, 2017,; AQAP reports martyrdom of AQAP militants from U.S. airstrikes in al Bayda, Telegram, January 21 and 22, 2017; and “The source from counterterrorism unit: US aircraft targeted a car carrying al Qaeda members in Abyan,” Aden Lang, January 21, 2017,
[3] “Egypt extends participation in Yemen conflict,” Reuters, January 22, 2017,, Shuaib Almosawa and Rod Nordland, “Renewed fighting and drone strikes in Yemen kill about 75,” The New York Times, January 22, 2017,, and “Egypt Extends the Mission of Armed Forces in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and the Bab al Mandab region,” Sabanew, January 22, 2017,
[4] “Foreign Minister meets with Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Yemen,” Sabanews, January 23, 2017,, and “Ould Cheikh leaves Sana’a without making any media statement,” Aden Lange, January 23, 2017,
[5] AQAP claims to shell al Zahir district, al Bayda governorate, Telegram, January 20, 2017; “The Houthis are bombing villages in the districts of al Zahir  and Quraishi in al Bayda,” January 20, 2017,
[6] “Bomb at army base in Burhakaba kills five Somali soldiers,” Garowe Online, January 23, 2017,
[7] “Al Shabaab commander, five militants killed in Southern Somalia,” Garowe Online, January 21, 2017,
[8] “Al Shabaab ambushes KDF soldiers in Somalia,” Shabelle News, January 21, 2017,; and “Somalia’s government troops retake Elwak town from al Shabaab, Africa News, September 17, 2016,
[9] “Burundi drops threat to withdraw troops from Somalia after AU agreement,” Africa News, January 23, 2017,  
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