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 forces take over parts of Razih in western Sa’ada, northern Yemen; UN Special Envoy for Yemen announces his resignation; AQAP official calls for attacks in response to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem; al Houthi forces fire ballistic missiles at coalition targets in southwestern Saudi Arabia and Taiz governorate, western Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab blames Human Rights Watch for U.S.-Somali raid in Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab militants kill three soldiers in Bay region, southern Somalia; Puntland and Somaliland forces clash in Sool region, northern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government began an offensive to seize western Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on January 23. Hadi government forces entered Razih district, western Sa’ada from neighboring Jazan region in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Hadi government forces are simultaneously conducting an offensive into northeastern Sa’ada from al Buqa’.[1]

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will step down at the end of his term in February 2018. The al Houthi-Saleh government in Sana’a declared Ould Cheikh Ahmed a persona non grata and accused him of anti-al Houthi bias in June 2017. British mediator Martin Griffiths is rumored to replace Ould Cheikh Ahmed in the post, according to a Saudi media source. Griffiths is a senior international mediator who worked for the UN Special Envoy for Syria from 2012 to 2014.[2]

Senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) official Khaled Batarfi called on Muslims to attack Western and Jewish targets by any means necessary on January 22. Batarfi’s statement is a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. Batarfi stated that Muslims should not negotiate for Jerusalem under any circumstances. The U.S. Department of State designated Batarfi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on January 23. Batarfi has previously served as AQAP’s commander in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen and as a member of AQAP’s shura council.[3]

Al Houthi forces fired two ballistic missiles at Saudi-led coalition and allied forces on January 22. The al Houthis fired a Zilzal missile at a Saudi military camp in Najran, southwestern Saudi Arabia. The al Houthis also fired a Qaher-M2 missile at the al Khayami military camp used by Hadi government-aligned fighters south of Taiz.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab blamed Human Rights Watch (HRW) for a raid conducted by U.S.-backed Somali forces in Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on January 19. The group’s Shahada News Agency stated that the joint forces killed four children and their teacher in Galyali village. HRW recently published an article on al Shabaab’s abduction and indoctrination of children. U.S.-trained Somali forces rescued 32 child conscripts from an al Shabaab training facility on January 18.[5]

Al Shabaab killed three Somali soldiers and stole their guns between the Qansax Dheere and Berdale towns in Bay region, southern Somalia. Al Shabaab fighters conduct regular attacks in Bay and Bakool regions.[6]

Somaliland and Puntland forces clashed in Tukaraq area in the disputed Sool region on January 22. Both sides claim to be fighting over the Tukaraq area in order to secure their borders and sovereignty.  Somaliland Vice President Abdirahman Abdullahi Ismail Saylici arrived in Tukaraq on the same day to meet with Somaliland military officials. The Somaliland commander in Sool region claimed to advance past Tukaraq and progress toward other areas of Sool.[7]

[1] “Yemen forces open new front with Razih” Al Dostor, January 23, 2018

[2] “British mediator Martin Griffiths ‘appointed new UN envoy to Yemen’” Al Arabiya, January 23, 2018; and “Yemen envoy decided not to continue his mission after the end of his present mandate”, OSESGY, January 22, 2018,

[3] “State Department Terrorist designation of Khalid Batarfi,” U.S. Department of State, January 23, 2018; and “Yemen AQAP official Batarfi calls for attacks on Jews, Westerners everywhere following Jerusalem announcement,” January 23, 2018, available by subscription at

[4] “Breaking: Houthi forces launch ballistic missile at Saudi military camp, 35 fighters killed” Al Masdar, January 22, 2018, -missile-saudi-military-camp-35-fighters-killed/; “Two ballistic missiles were launched at the Saudi artillery barracks in Najran,” Al Masirah, January 22, 2018, .php?es_id=18532&cat_id=3; and “Qaher-M2 ballistic missile launched at Saudi camp south of Taiz” Al Masirah, January 22, 2018,

[5] “Shabaab Holds HRW Responsible for U.S.-Somali Raid on Alleged Shariah Institute for Children in Middle Shabelle,” January 22, 2018, available by subscription at; “Somalia: Al-Shabab Demanding Children,” Human Rights Watch, January 14, 2018,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review: January 19,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, January 19, 2018,

[6] “Al-Shabab reportedly kills Somali soldiers and seizes guns,” BBC Monitoring Africa, January 23, 2018, available by subscription at

[7] “Puntland and Somaliland forces vow to capture disputed region,” BBC Monitoring Africa, January 23, 2018, available by subscription at; and “Somalia's Puntland and Somaliland forces clash in Sool,” Shabelle Media Network, January 23, 2018, available by subscription at

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