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: Norway suspends arms sales to UAE; Hadi government forces attempt to seize al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; al Houthi court sentences Baha’i adherement to death in Sana’a city; U.S. airstrike kills two AQAP militants in al Bayda

Horn of Africa: Ethiopia to release political prisoners; AFRICOM confirms airstrike targeting al Shabaab VBIED; al Shabaab ambushes police in Mandera County, eastern Kenya; al Shabaab executes accused spies in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; al Shabaab targets security forces in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Norway suspended exports of weapons and ammunition to the UAE on December 3 due to concern over the use of these arms in Yemen. Norwegian arms sales to the UAE rose from $5.06 million in 2015 to $9.74 million in 2016. The UAE participates in the Saudi-led coalition and is leading an offensive against al Houthi forces in western Yemen. The UAE also backs units tasked with security and counterterrorism  in southern and eastern Yemen.[1]

Hadi government forces are attempting to seize al Bayda governorate, central Yemen from the north and south. The 1st and 3rd brigades reportedly deployed from Aden city to Lawder district, northern Abyan governorate on January 1 to begin an advance on Mukayras district, southern al Bayda. Hadi government forces also made minor advances in northern al Bayda, seizing Jabal al Ghoul in Nati’ district on January 2. Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed neighboring Na’man district. The 107th and 26th brigades entered Nati’ district on December 26.[2] 

An al Houthi court sentenced Baha’i adherent Hamid Haidarah, an Iranian national, to death in Sana’a city on January 2. The al Houthi court detained Haidarah on espionage charges in support of Israel in 2014. International organizations have repeatedly raised concerns over human rights violations in Haidarah’s case.[3]

A reported U.S. airstrike killed two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Quraishyah district, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 2. The U.S. conducts airstrikes in central Yemen as part of a campaign to weaken Salafi-jihadi cells.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated on January 3 that the Ethiopian government will release all political prisoners in order to foster national dialogue and reconciliation. The government will also drop charges against detainees awaiting trial and close a prison known for alleged torture. The Ethiopian government had previously denied holding political prisoners, instead describing them as criminals or terrorists. Desalegn’s announcement follows political turmoil and violence sparked by land disputes, government repression, and ethnic conflict.[5]

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed a January 2 airstrike that destroyed an al Shabaab vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) traveling toward Mogadishu from the west. The strike killed two militants.[6] 

Al Shabaab ambushed a Kenyan police vehicle in Mandera County, eastern Kenya on January 2, killing two senior officers and three reservists. The policemen were patrolling the El Wak-Kutolo road at the time of the attack. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the ambush. The attack comes four days after al Shabaab raided two police stations in Ijara town, Garissa County, and claimed to temporarily seize the town.[7]

Al Shabaab publicly executed five men in Kuntuwarey town in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on January 2. The men were accused of spying for Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.[8]

Al Shabaab conducted several attacks targeting security forces in Mogadishu on January 1-2. The group assassinated a Somali colonel in Waberi district on January 1, attacked a barracks in Hodon district, and detonated a car bomb in Bul-Hubey area. Al Shabaab militants also killed the father of the head of Somalia’s military court in Dharkenley district on January 2, one day after prosecutors brought charges against al Shabaab militants accused of planning the October 14 bombing that killed more than 500 people in Mogadishu.[9]

[1] “Norway suspends arms sales to UAE over Yemen war,” Reuters, January 3, 2018,
[2] “The National Army controls new locations in al Bayda,” Barakish, January , 2018,; “An emergency move of four military brigades towards these two districts of al Bayda and Taiz to liberate them,” Barq Press, January 1, 2018,; and “The leader of the Bayhan axis is inspecting the frontlines of Nati’ district,” September 26 News, December 31, 2017,
[3] “Who is Hamid Haidarah, a Baha’i sentenced to death by Houthis?,” Al Yaman Al Araby, January 2, 2018,
[4] “Dead in US raids in al Bayda, central Yemen,” Yemen Monitor, January 2, 2018,
[5] Aaron Maasho, “Ethiopia to release jailed politicians to ‘foster national reconciliation’: PM,” Reuters, January 3, 2018,; and “Ethiopia to release all political prisoners, says prime minister,” BBC, January 3, 2018,
[6] “U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” U.S. Africa Command, January 3, 2018,; and “U.S. says air strike kills two militants in Somalia,” Reuters, January 3, 2018,
[7] “Al Shabaab kills five Kenyan policemen who were out on patrol,” Reuters, January 3, 2018,;  “5 Kenyan Policemen Killed in Ambush Blamed on al-Shabab,” Voice of America, January 3, 2018,; and  “Shabaab claims seizing contgrol over Kenyan town, destroying church, police station, and Safaricom HQ,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 1,; and Hillary Orinde, “Al-Shabaab militia attack police camps in Ijara, Garissa County,” Standard, December 30, 2017,
[8] Abdi Guled, “Al-Shabab extremists execute 5 alleged spies in Somalia,” Associated Press, January 3, 2018,; and “Somalia: Al-Shabab publicly executes 5 men for espionage,” Garowe Online, January 3, 2018,
[9] “Shabaab claims killing 6 Kenyan policemen in ambush in Mandera, three attacks in Mogadishu,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 2, 2018,; “Al Shabaab claims killing father of Somali military court jduge,” Radio Shabelle, January 3, 2018,;  “At least two injured in Mogadishu car bombing,” Radio Shabelle, January 2, 2018; and “Somali government soldier shot dead in Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, January 2, 2018,

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