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: Suspected AQAP militants attack government buildings and establish checkpoints in al Hawta, Lahij governorate; ISIS in Yemen defector apologizes to al Qaeda; gunmen target security officials in Aden city; coalition airstrike hits MSF ambulance in Sa’ada governorate

Horn of Africa: Kenyan police to upgrade communications and helicopters; Somali security forces conduct clearing operation in Bay region, Somalia; suspected mastermind of Lido Beach attack arrested

Yemen Security Brief

  • Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants seized government buildings and blew up a security office in al Hawta, the capital of Lahij governorate in southern Yemen, on January 24. Initial reports state that militants erected checkpoints in the city and arrested individuals from al Dhaleh and Taiz governorates. If confirmed, the attack marks a significant westward push by AQAP, which took control of Ja’ar and Zinjibar in Abyan governorate in late 2015.[1]
  • A defector from the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in Yemen apologized to al Qaeda leadership in a video released on January 15. The ISIS defector, named Antar al Kindi, condemned ISIS’s radical interpretation of shari’a law and asked al Qaeda head Ayman al Zawahiri to forgive him and other defectors now seeking to join al Qaeda. More than 100 members of ISIS in Yemen defected in December 2015 due to grievances with the group’s leadership, but these militants reaffirmed their allegiance to ISIS head Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.[2]
  • Unidentified gunmen killed a senior security official and four others in Aden’s al Mansoura district on January 24. Assailants also launched an unsuccessful attack on a United Arab Emirates military convoy in the city’s Khormaksar district, assassinated a soldier in al Mansoura, and killed two in an attempted kidnapping in Crater district on January 23. The attacks mark the latest in a series of killings and assassinations in Aden, the de facto seat of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government.[3]
  • A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) ambulance in Dahyan, Sa’ada governorate on January 21. The ambulance was responding to the scene of a previous airstrike when a second strike hit the vehicle, killing the driver.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

This section has been updated to remove a story that had been reprinted from July 2010.

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya announced that Kenyan national police will soon be equipped with secure communications equipment, as well as several helicopters and armored personnel carriers, to improve counter-terrorism and crime prevention capabilities. The helicopters, reportedly Russian MI-17s, will be operational by June 2016. Police forces will use the new surveillance and communications equipment to expand coverage in both Mombasa and Nairobi.[5]
  • Somali security forces conducted a clearing operation targeting al Shabaab militants near Burhakaba town in central Somalia’s Bay region on January 23.  Local residents reportedly assisted security forces with the operation.[6] 
  • Somali security forces arrested an al Shabaab militant suspected of masterminding the group’s January 21 attack on Mogadishu’s Lido Beach.  Officials detained Ismail Muse Ahmed Guled, a Dutch-Somali dual citizen, as he attempted to flee Somalia for the Netherlands on January 22. Guled has been wanted by Somali officials for at least year and is suspected of carrying out at least two other hotel attacks, one in Mogadishu and the other in Djibouti.[7] 

[1] “Al Qaeda” in an operation in the capital of Lahij: checkpoint and governorate-based arrests,” Khabar News Agency, January 25, 2016,
“Security chaos and looting in al Hawta and the governor hints at resignation,”, January 25, 2016,
[2] Thomas Jocelyn, “Islamic State defector in Yemen apologizes to al Qaeda,” Long War Journal, January 23, 2016,
[3] Simon Hooper, “Police colonel and others killed by gunmen in Aden attacks,” Middle East Eye, Januar 24, 2016,
“A bomb explosion targeting United Arab Emirates armored vehicle and no reports of victims,” Yemen News Network, January 23, 2016,
“Gunmen assassinate security official in Yemen’s Aden,” Xinhua, January 24, 2016,
[4] Ahmed Al-Haj and Jon Gambrell, “Dozens killedin Yemen airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition,” Associated Press, January 22, 2016,
“Yemen crisis: MSF-backed hospital hit by missile,” BBC News, January 10, 2016,
“Yemen: Saada attacks wound dozens and kill at least 6, including ambulance driver,” Médecins Sans Frontières, January 22, 2016,
[5] “Police to get armoured vehicles, secure communication network – Uhuru,” Shabelle News, January 24, 2016,
[6]“Somali forces carry out sweep in Burhakabo and its suburbs,” Shabelle News, January 23, 2016,;
“Ethiopian troops arrest nearly 20 people in Somalia,” Shabellew News, January 25, 2016,  
[7] “Dutch-Somali man masterminded Mogadishu beach bombing,20 killed,” Shabelle News, January 23, 2016,
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