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: ISIS Wilayat Green Brigade claims suicide attack on Houthi-Saleh forces in Ibb; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to shoot down coalition helicopter conducting offensive operations in Mokha district, Taiz governorate; militants destroy Political Security Organization headquarters in Taiz; Russian officials meet with al Houthi-Saleh and Hadi government representatives
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab conducts multi-VBIED attack on Mogadishu hotel; al Shabaab recaptures Badhadhe town from Jubbaland and AMISOM forces; Somali presidential elections rescheduled for February 8
Yemen Security Brief
- Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Liwa al Akhdar (Green Brigade) claimed a suicide vest attack on an al Houthi-Saleh checkpoint in al Radmah district, northwestern Ibb governorate on January 24. An al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-affiliated Telegram account praised the attack and expressed hope that ISIS would stay on the “right path.” ISIS Wilayat Liwa al Akhdar has not claimed any activity in Yemen since one of its leaders defected from ISIS in Yemen in December 2015.
- Al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to have shot down a Saudi-led coalition Apache helicopter over Mokha district, Taiz governorate on January 25. Saudi-led coalition aircraft are taking part in Operation Golden Spear in support of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government. The coalition intensified airstrikes against al Houthi-Saleh positions between al Durayhimi district and al Khawkah district, south-central al Hudaydah governorate, in an effort to soften resistance to Hadi government infantry attempting to advance north. A Hadi government defense official announced on January 25 that the next phase of Operation Golden Spear will include dual offensives to seize the coast of al Hudaydah governorate and drive al Houthi-Saleh forces out of Taiz city.
- Reported Abu Abbas Brigade militants bombed the Hadi government’s intelligence agency, the Political Security Organization, in Taiz city on January 25. Taiz Deputy Security Director Colonel Mohammed Abdullah Ibrahim al Mahmoudi accused Abu Abbas of coordinating with al Qaeda to carry out the attack. Abu Abbas, also known as Adel Abdu Rakish, is a Salafi-jihadi cleric whose militia attempted to gain public support by fighting local militias accused of extortion on January 13. The Abu Abbas Brigade operated as part of the pro-Hadi popular resistance fighting against al Houthi-Saleh forces in Taiz city throughout 2015. The Abu Abbas Brigade bombed Taiz city’s historic Sheikh Abdulhadi al Sudi Mosque on July 29, 2016, straining relations with other anti-al Houthi groups.
- Al Houthi-Saleh Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah met with Russia’s Charge d'Affaires to Yemen, Andrey Chernovol, in Sana’a on January 24. Sharaf Abdullah briefed Chernovol on his January 23 meeting with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen regarding a UN-proposed peace plan. Russia also maintains diplomatic ties with the internationally recognized Hadi government. President Hadi’s undersecretary of state for political affairs met with Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin in Aden on January 24 to discuss the UN peace proposal and the progress of Hadi government forces in Taiz governorate.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants detonated multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) at the Dayah Hotel in Mogadishu on January 25. Four militants rammed the first VBIED into the hotel gates before jumping clear and detonating the bomb. Gunmen stormed the hotel after the initial blast. Militants detonated a second VBIED shortly after entering the hotel. Somali security forces eventually killed the militants and cleared the hotel. Somali Security Minister Abdirizak Umar reported that the attack killed 28 people and wounded 43 others. The explosions also destroyed several cars and nearby buildings. The Dayah Hotel is located in the Waberi district of Mogadishu along the Makka al Mukarama Road. Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohammed Rage emphasized the value of targeting hotels in this area during a radio interview on January 6.
- Al Shabaab militants recaptured the coastal town of Badhadhe in Lower Jubba region on January 24. Jubbaland and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces had occupied the town hours before. Al Shabaab recaptured Badhadhe after Jubbaland and AMISOM forces withdrew. Al Shabaab has controlled Badhadhe, a town located 200 kilometers south of Kismayo city, since January 2016.
- Somalia’s electoral commission announced that presidential elections will take place on February 8. The Somali Federal Parliament recently concluded elections for leadership of its upper and lower houses, completing the last major step before parliamentarians vote for the new president. The electoral commission postponed the presidential vote multiple times throughout 2016 due to security and corruption concerns.