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: Southern commanders denounce Transitional Political Council for the South’s threat to secede; Hadi government forces retake territory in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; AQAP reiterates call for attacks on Jewish and Western targets

Horn of Africa: Somali Federal Government lures al Shabaab defectors; al Shabaab claims credit for IED blast west of Mogadishu; ISIS in Somalia assassinates finance official

Yemen Security Brief

Fifty-nine southern Yemeni commanders released a statement on January 23 rejecting the Transitional Political Council for the South’s (STC) threat to overthrow the internationally recognized Hadi government in southern Yemen. The statement claimed that STC’s threat to secede does not accurately reflect the desires of all southern actors. The statement warns that STC’s secession would destabilize the south and allow terrorist groups to re-establish a foothold in Aden.[1]

Hadi government forces temporarily lost territory in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. Coalition-backed forces retook Jabal Marquza, Nata’ district, central al Bayda governorate on January 24 after losing it to al Houthi forces on January 23. Coalition-backed forces began an offensive to seize parts of al Bayda in late December.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) reiterated its call for attacks on Western and Jewish targets in response for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in a January 24 document. The statement summarized senior AQAP official Khaled Batarfi’s January 23 statements on President Trump’s decision. The messages coincided with U.S. Vice President Pence’s trip to Israel and his announcement that the U.S. will to open an embassy in Jerusalem in 2019. The document frames U.S. decision regarding Jerusalem as one of many ways in which the U.S. disregards Muslims.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab members are defecting to the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and providing operational intelligence and insight into al Shabaab leadership, according to a Reuters report. Al Shabaab attempts to prevent defections by requiring travel passes for senior members. An al Shabaab spokesman denied the claims of defections and accused the SFG of trying to manipulate public opinion and hide security failures.[4]

Al Shabaab conducted a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attack that killed at least five Somali soldiers 13 kilometers west of Mogadishu in southern Somalia. Al Shabaab claimed the attack and said that it killed the commissioner of Elbur district and his security guards Al Shabaab conducts frequent attacks on the roads linking Mogadishu with nearby towns, such as Afgoi in Lower Shabelle region.[5]

ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a video of an ISIS gunman killing a Somali finance official in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region on January 23. The video did not identify the victim by name. ISIS-linked militants are primarily based in northern Somalia but have developed a limited presence in the Lower Shabelle region, where the U.S. conducted airstrikes against the group in November 2017.[6]

[1] “Leaders on the popular resistance in the south of the country declares its rejection of the statement and escalation southern transition,” Al Masdar Online, January 24, 2018,; and “Details of the release of Qasm al Juhri commander of the battalion of Salman al-Hazem,” Huna Aden, August 31, 2017,

[2] “The Yemeni army liberates a strategic position in al Bayda,” Al Sjl, January 24, 2018,; and “Government forces regain control of the Marqouza mountain in Al-Bayda a day after the Houthis seized control of it,” al Masdar Online, January 24, 2018, 

[3] AQAP reiterates Batarfi’s call for attacks on western and Jewish targets, Telegram, January 24, 2018. 

[4] “Exclusive: Somalia lures defectors in new push against insurgents,” Reuters, January 24, 2018,

[5] “El Bur DC & 4 Others Killed in A Blast Near Mogadishu,” Radio Dalsan, January 23, 2018,; “Somali military convoy targeted in IED blast near Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, January 23, 2018,

[6] “'Amaq Releases Video of IS Killing Somali Finance Official in Afgoye,” January 23, 2018, available by subscription at

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