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 to respond to provocations by southern military forces aimed at Aden security forces; Saudi-led coalition-backed Hadi government forces renewed offensive on Taiz city, central Yemen; aid agencies criticize Saudi-led coalition humanitarian initiative; AQAP publishes video of its attacks on al Houthi forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen

Horn of Africa: Likely al Shabaab IED targets SNA vehicle in Hodan District, Mogadishu; AMISOM forces repel al Shabaab attack on Bulo Burde, Hiraan region, central Somalia; UN official says al Shabaab remains a threat despite decline; UN sends mediator to Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

Commander of the Hadi government Presidential Protection Forces Mehran al Qabati stated on January 24 that his forces will respond to provocations by the Southern Resistance Forces aimed at Aden security forces. The Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) created an independent security apparatus,  dubbed the Southern Resistance Forces, on January 21 and threatened to topple the Hadi government in one week if internationally recognized President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi fails to dismiss his cabinet. The STC is an Emirati-backed governing body that seeks autonomy in southern and eastern Yemen.[1]

Saudi-led coalition-backed forces renewed an offensive on Taiz city, central Yemen on January 25. Hadi government forces attacked al Houthi positions in eastern and northern Taiz city, while coalition warplanes struck al Houthi forces in western and northwestern areas of Taiz city. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants participated in a previous offensive by anti-Houthi forces to push the Taiz city frontlines further east and capture key locations in June 2017.[2] 

International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) operating in Yemen criticized the Saudi-led coalition’s new humanitarian initiative in a joint statement released on January 23. The INGOs stated the Saudi-led coalition did not consult the majority of operational aid agencies that have been responding to the humanitarian crisis. The INGOs called on the Saudi-led coalition to keep al Hudaydah port open, as it receives 80 percent of all imported goods in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition announced its intention to shift aid delivery routes away from al Hudaydah on January 21.[3]

AQAP published a 28 minute video highlighting its attacks on al Houthi forces in al Sawma’ah, al Zahir, and Dhi Na’im districts in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 24. The footage includes raids on al Houthi positions, equipment captured from al Houthi forces, and dead bodies of al Houthi troops. The video also memorialized AQAP militants, the majority of whom U.S. airstrikes killed.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Likely al Shabaab militants conducted an improvised explosive device (IED) attack targeting a Somali National Army (SNA) vehicle in Hodan district, Mogadishu. The explosion killed one student and injured three SNA soldiers. Al Shabaab has recently conducted roadside IED attacks against SNA forces in Mogadishu. The group has claimed five attacks in Mogadishu in the past five days.[5]

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces repelled an al Shabaab attack on Bulo Burde in Hiran region, central Somalia on January 24. AMISOM forces killed three al Shabaab militants.[6]

UN Special Representative for Somalia Michael Keating said that al Shabaab is in decline but remains a serious threat. Keating told Security Council members that the deployment of AMISOM forces in Somalia is essential to defeat al Shabaab. Keating also warned of violence between Puntland and Somaliland forces in Sool region, northern Somalia. Somalia’s UN envoy, Abukar Dahir Osman, urged the Security Council to ease the arms embargo in place in Somalia. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) has argued that the arms embargo must be lifted for the SNA to defeat al Shabaab.[7]

The UN sent a former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, to mediate a resolution to the political stalemate in Kenya. The UN Secretary-General’s spokesman stressed the importance of upholding Kenya’s 2010 constitution and conducting political activities within the confines of the law. Kenyan National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale denied his officials met with Obasanjo and accused the opposition of hypocrisy. The National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition party promised to swear in opposition leader Raila Odinga as president following contested elections, but has postponed twice under pressure from the ruling party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Majority Leader Duale warned that any attempt to create two centers of power would fail.[8]

[1] “Political and military movements in Aden to fight a possible battle with the Transitional Council, and the government threatens to cut off the hand that extends to it,” Mareb Press, January 24, 2018,; and “Conference of the leaders of the Ministry of Interior renews its support for the President of the Republic and appreciates the role of the Arab Alliance,” Saba New, January 25, 2018,
[2] “The battle for the liberation of Taiz and the rapid advance of the army began,” Al Mushahid, January 25, 2018,
[3] “INGO joint statement on newly announced Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations plan,” Relief Web, January 23, 2018,
[4] “AQAP video “Lions of War” shows attacks on Houthi fighters throughout al Bayda,” SITE, January 24, 2018, available by subscription at
[5] “One dead, Three injured in Mogadishu Explosion,” Radio Shabelle, January 25, 2018,; “Student Killed, 3 SNA Soldiers Injured in Mogadishu Blast,” Radio Dalsan, January 25, 2018,;  and “Shabaab Claims 14 Attacks in Lower Juba, Puntland, Bay, Lower Shabelle, Banaadir,” January 24, 2018, available by subscription at 
[6] “Allied forces avert militants’ plot to carry out raid in Hiran,” Radio Shabelle, January 25, 2018,
[7] “UN: Al-Shabab in Decline, But Still a Threat,” Voice of America, January 25, 2018,
[8] “UN sent Obasanjo to mediate between Uhuru and Raila,” Standard Media, January 25, 2018,; and “Kenyans react after AG Githu Muigai says swearing-in Raila is treason,” Standard Media, December 7, 2017,

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