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: Al Houthi forces release detained U.S. citizen; southern commanders deny rejecting STC’s threat to secede from Hadi government; Saudi-led coalition turns over 27 child soldiers to Hadi government in Ma’rib governorate; Somali and Ethiopian drown after smuggling boat capsizes off coast of southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab IED targets Ethiopian AMISOM troops in Bay region, south-central Somalia; SNA to launch recruitment initiative in Gedo region, southern Somalia; al Shabaab administers hadd punishments in Qunya Barrow town, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

The al Houthi movement released U.S. citizen Danny Lavon Burch on January 26 after reportedly detaining Burch in Sana’a city in September 2017. The al Houthi movement denied detaining Burch after militants kidnapped him in September. Senior al Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdel Salam escorted Burch to Oman. Abdel Salam was the al Houthi representative at June 2015 Yemen peace talks in Geneva. [1]

Twenty-one southern Yemeni commanders denied signing a document condemning the Transitional Political Council of the South (STC)’s threat to secede from the internationally recognized government, according to a STC January 23 statement from STC Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al Gaythi. The STC threatened on January 21 to topple the Hadi government in southern Yemen in one week unless President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi dismisses his cabinet and puts its members on trial for crimes against southern Yemen. The STC is an Emirati-backed governing body that seeks autonomy in southern and eastern Yemen.[2] 

Saudi-led coalition forces turned over 27 al Houthi child soldiers they had captured along the Saudi-Yemeni border to Hadi government officials in Ma’rib governorate, northern Yemen on January 25, according to Saudi officials. International non-governmental organizations have reported that both the Hadi government and al Houthi movement recruit child soldiers.[3]

Thirty African migrants died after a smuggling boat transporting 152 Somalis and Ethiopians capsized off the coast of al Buraiqeh in Aden, southern Yemen on January 23. An International Organization for Migration spokesman said smugglers likely turned their guns on the migrants to extort more money from them. The Gulf of Aden is a popular human trafficking route for smugglers.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab targeted Ethiopian troops with an improvised explosive device (IED) at Baidoa city in Bay region, south-central Somalia on January 25. The roadside bomb struck an Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) contingent traveling in Awdiinle village. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for Southwest State denied any attack in the vicinity of Baidoa.[5] 

The Somali National Army (SNA) plans to launch a recruitment initiative in Gedo region, southern Somalia. The SNA is seeking new military officers in order to prepare for operations to clear al Shabaab bases in Gedo region and the Middle and Lower Jubba regions in southern Somalia. The SNA and AMISOM forces have increased counter-al Shabaab operations in southern Somalia since November 2017.[6]

Al Shabaab militants amputated the hands of two men accused of theft in front of hundreds of onlookers in Qunyo Barrow town in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on January 24. Al Shabaab convicted the men of breaking into a shop and stealing $883. Al Shabaab regularly carries out hadd punishments, including executions, stonings, amputations, and floggings, in the areas it controls.[7]

[1] “Yemen Houthis free detained U.S. citizen, sends him to Oman: local sources,” Reuters, January 26, 2018,
[2] Mohammed al Gaythi, Twitter, January 23, 2018,; and “Southern leaders question a statement rejecting the decisions of the Transitional Council,” Al Youm 8, January 24, 2018,
[3] “Coalition forces hand over 27 children to the legitimate Yemeni government,” Saudi Press Agency, January 25, 2018,; and “Arab coalition hands over 27 child soldiers to Yemen government: statement,” Reuters, January 25, 2018,
[4] “At least 20 Africans drown off Yemen after boat capsized,” Reuters, January 26, 2018,; “UN says 30 African migrants, refugees drowned off Yemen,” Radio Shabelle, January 26, 2018,; “30 Somalis & Ethiopians Drown In Gulf Of Aden,” Radio Dalsan, January 26, 2018,; and At Least 30 Somalis, Ethiopians Drown Off Yemen Coast,” Voice of America, January 26, 2018.
[5] “Ethiopian Troops Targeted In IED Blast Near Baidoa City,” Radio Shabelle, January 26, 2018,
[6] “ SNA to commence recruitment in Gedo region,” Hiraan Online, January 26, 2018,
[7] “Al-Shabaab amputates hands of two men accused of theft,” Hiraan Online, January 26, 2018,

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