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 secessionist forces clash with Hadi government forces in Aden city; al Houthi movement releases 600 political prisoners in Sana’a; Saudi forces arrest two AQAP militants planning attack in Saudi Arabia; reported U.S. airstrikes target AQAP militants in Shabwah, al Bayda, and Ma’rib governorates

Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab gunmen kill assistant judge in Wanlaweyn district, Lower Shabelle region; AMISOM claims U.S. drone strikes are wiping out al Shabaab in Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Forces affiliated with the Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) clashed with forces aligned with the internationally recognized President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi government in Aden city on January 28 and 29. The clashes occurred after Hadi government forces attempted to prevent STC supporters from protesting. The STC is an Emirati-backed governing body that seeks autonomy in southern and eastern Yemen. The STC issued an ultimatum on January 21 threatening to topple the government of Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghir if President Hadi failed to dismiss Daghir’s government on January 28. The Hadi government banned demonstrations in Aden on January 27 ahead of the STC’s deadline. Pro-STC forces and Hadi government forces fought for control over military bases and multiple government buildings on January 28 and 29. A Hadi government military commander threatened to abandon an offensive against the al Houthi movement on the western Yemeni coast to counter the STC if the Saudi-led coalition does not intervene in Aden to end the fighting. Saudi Arabia and the UAE reaffirmed their support for President Hadi and criticized the STC’s secession efforts.[1]

The al Houthi movement released 600 political prisoners in Sana’a city on January 27. Al Houthi forces detained hundreds of people after al Houthi forces killed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in early December 2017. Al Houthi forces also released 165 Hadi government prisoners-of-war in exchange for 110 al Houthi fighters in Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen on January 29. The al Houthi movement released U.S. citizen Danny Lavon Burch, who was detained in Sana’a in September 2017, on January 26 following Omani mediation.[2]

Saudi forces arrested two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants planning a suicide attack on a Saudi border crossing on January 25, according to a Saudi prosecutor. Security forces arrested the militants as they attempted to study the Saudi-Yemeni border crossing. One of the militants is an AQAP financier and facilitates weapon transfers to the group, according to the prosecutor.[3]

The U.S. conducted three drone strikes targeting AQAP militants in central and eastern Yemen. A U.S. airstrike killed seven AQAP militants in al Said district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen on January 27, according to local sources. Reported U.S. airstrikes also killed three AQAP militants in a car in al Jawbah city, Ma’rib governorate on January 28 and two likely AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 29. [4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Suspected al Shabaab gunmen killed assistant Judge Mohamed Jacfar Ahmed in the Wanlaweyn district in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on January 27. Authorities arrested two suspects in connection with the killing on January 29. Wanlaweyn is a strategic town and frequent al Shabaab target. It is located near the U.S. Baledogle Forward Operating Base and is on the road between Mogadishu and Baidoa, the capital of Bay region. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.[5]

The head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said that U.S. drone strikes are wiping out al Shabaab militants in Somalia on January 26. U.S-backed Somali forces have increased operations against al Shabaab militants with air strikes and ground assaults in recent months. AMISOM began withdrawing forces from Somalia in late 2017 and is scheduled to complete its withdrawal from Somalia by December 2020, but an extension of its mandate remains possible. AMISOM commander General Subagle said AMISOM troops will only leave Somalia when the SNA is capable of taking over its role.[6]

[1] “Aden gripped by fresh fighting as Yemen rivals battle for control,” Reuters, January 29, 2018,; “Ten dead as rival Yemenis battle for control of Aden,” Reuters, January 28, 2018,; “Yemen government bans protests in Aden ahead of separatist deadline,” Reuters, January 27, 2018,; Anwar Gargash, Twitter, January 28, 2018,; and “The Alliance for the Support of Legitimacy in Yemen calls on all Yemeni political and social components to be calm and to restrain and avoid any reasons that lead to division,” Saudi Press Agency, January 27, 2018,
[2] “The release of 600 military detainees against the background of the December events,” Saba News, January 27, 2018,; and “The release of 165 prisoners from the army and the popular committees in an exchange with armed groups in Shabwah,” Saba News, January 29, 2018,
[3] “Thwarting a suicide plot to assassinate Saudi officers at a border post,” Okaz, January 25, 2018,
[4] “Drone strike targeted al Qaeda in Ma’rib,” Yemen Akhbar, January 28, 2018; “Seven civilians were killed in an air strike by a US drone aircraft,” Al Masdar Online, January 27, 2018,; and “Two anti-al Houthi fighters killed in U.S. drone strike,” Yemen Akhbar, January 29, 2018,
[5] “2 Suspects Arrested For Murder Of Lower Shabelle Judiciary Official,” Radio Dalsan, January 27, 2018,; and “Gunmen kill a judge in Wanlaweyn district in southern Somalia,” Radio Shabelle, January 28, 2018,
[6] “U.S drones to 'wipe out' Al Shabaab in Somalia,” Africa News, January 27, 2018,; “US drones ‘wiping out’ Shabaab in Somalia: AU mission head,” AFP, January 27, 2018,; and “Amisom’s Withdrawal Pegged On SNA Strength, Gen. Subagle Says,” January 28, 2018,

View Citations
Arrow down red
Feb '18
Jan '18