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: U.S. Special Operations Forces raid AQAP headquarters in northwestern al Bayda governorate; reported U.S. airstrike kills AQAP militants in northwestern Shabwah governorate; al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile strikes Hadi government position south of Mokha city; AQAP attacks Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in Abyan governorate; UN Security Council report alleges Saudi-led coalition war crimes

Horn of Africa: ISIS-linked militants execute three Somali soldiers near Qandala town, Bari region; Kenyan Directorate of Criminal Investigations warns of imminent al Shabaab attack in Nairobi; Somali special operations forces kill senior al Shabaab commander Abdullahi Qanas in Gedo region

Yemen Security Brief

  • U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) conducted a ground raid targeting an al Qaeda in that Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquarters in Yakal, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 29. AQAP militants killed one U.S. service member and wounded three others during the hour-long engagement. U.S. forces killed an estimated 14 AQAP militants in the attack, including AQAP senior leader Abdual Raouf al Dhahab. A reported U.S. airstrike attempted to kill al Dhahab in early September 2012. U.S. President Donald Trump announced that U.S. forces captured “important” intelligence during the raid. Local news sources and AQAP media channels claimed that U.S. forces killed several women and children in the raid, including the young daughter of late AQAP senior leader Anwar al Awlaki. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik Mikhlafi criticized the raid on social media. AQAP produced several pieces of anti-American propaganda featuring children allegedly killed in the raid.[1]
  • A reported U.S. airstrike killed two AQAP militants in Bayhan district, northwestern Shabwah governorate, central Yemen on January 30. The last reported U.S. airstrike targeted AQAP militants in central Shabwah governorate on January 26. The U.S. has conducted five airstrikes targeting AQAP militants since U.S. President Donald Trump took office on January 20.[2]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired three ballistic missiles at Hadi government forces in Mokha city, Taiz governorate on January 29. Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired the missiles from Camp Abu Musa in al Khawkah district, southern al Hudaydah governorate, near Yemen’s western Red Sea coast. Saudi-led coalition Patriot air defense systems intercepted two of the missiles. The third missile struck Hadi government and popular resistance forces south of Mokha city. Hadi government forces claimed to take control of the northern road leading out of Mokha on January 30, cutting off al Houthi-Saleh forces’ escape route from the city. The Hadi government’s offensive on Mokha city stalled after its forces seized the port of Mokha on January 23. The offensive on Mokha is part of Operation Golden Spear, which aims to capture Yemen’s western coast.[3]
  • AQAP militants ambushed Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces in Jahain area, central Abyan governorate on January 28. AQAP militants killed al Hizam commander Rushdi al Alwani and three al Hizam troops during the attack. AQAP militants claimed to seize al Hizam weapons after the ambush. AQAP militants also shelled a security headquarters in Zinjibar city, southern Abyan governorate on January 28.[4]
  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Panel of Experts, a body responsible for monitoring the Yemeni civil war, stated that the Saudi-led coalition may have committed war crimes in Yemen in a report released on January 27. The report cites ten Saudi-led airstrikes, conducted between March and October 2016, which killed at least 292 civilians. The Panel of Experts claimed that eight of the strikes in question did not involve possible military targets. The Panel also criticized the U.S., France, Britain, and Malaysia for assisting the coalition with logistics and intelligence capabilities.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)-linked militants executed three Somali soldiers near Qandala town in Bari region in northern Somalia on January 29, according to pro-ISIS Amaq News Agency. ISIS-linked militants abducted nine people, including the three soldiers, after ambushing a bus carrying 18 passengers en route to the coastal city of Boosaaso on January 28. Some hostages escaped. ISIS-linked militants seized Qandala town on October 26, 2016 before Puntland State security forces recaptured the town on December 7, 2016. ISIS-linked militants maintain hideouts in the Galgala Mountains area of Bari region.[6]
  • The Kenyan Criminal Investigations Directorate issued a press alert on January 28 warning of an imminent al Shabaab attack targeting a learning institution in Nairobi. Kenyan Investigations Officer Nicholas Kamwende stated that the attack would resemble the April 2015 Garissa University attack, in which al Shabaab gunmen killed 147 people. Kamwende warned that al Shabaab will use female attackers and stated that the group relies on logistical support from operatives located in Mandera County in northeastern Kenya. Al Shabaab militants continue to target Kenyan soldiers and civilians. Al Shabaab most recently attacked a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) base in Kolbio town, Lower Jubba region on January 27.[7]
  • Somali SOF killed senior al Shabaab commander Abdullahi Qanas during an operation in the Tulo Barwaqo area of Gedo region on January 29. Abdullahi Qanas was al Shabaab’s second deputy military commander in Gedo region.[8]


[1] “U.S. Forces Kill 14 Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula Terrorists in Yemen,” Department of Defense, January 29, 2017,; “One U.S. Service Member Killed, Several Others Injured During Raid In Yemen,” NPR, January 29, 2017,; “Al Qaeda shot down US helicopters in the air in al Bayda governorate,” al Masdar, January 29, 2017,; Abdul Malik Mikhlafi, Twitter, January 29, 2017,; and AQAP disseminates anti-American propaganda in response to raid in al Bayda, Telegram January 29-30, 2017. 
[2] “U.S. drones target two suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen - officials,” Reuters, January 30, 2017,
[3] “Mokha: Ballistic missile falls on army positions causing multiple casualties,” Aden Lange, January 30, 2017,, “A number of members of the army killed and injured after ballistic missile falls on their positions south of Mokha,” al Masdar, January 30, 2017,, and “Army continues to comb neighborhoods of Mokha for pockets of resistance and cuts off supply route between militias of Mokha and al Khawkah,” Aden Lange, January 30, 2017,
[4] AQAP claims attacks against al Hizam forces in central and southern Abyan governorate, January 28, 2017; and “Urgent: Unidentified targeting Abyan Security Administration building mortar,” Aden Lang, January 28, 2017,
[5] “U.N. experts warn Saudi-led coalition allies over war crimes in Yemen,” Reuters, January 29, 2017,
[6] “ISIL militants kidnap four men in northeast Somalia,” Shabelle News, January 28, 2017,; and IS Fighters Capture and Later Kill 3 Somali Soldiers Near Qandala, SITE Intelligence, January 30, 2017.
[7] “Al Shabaab planning major attack in Nairobi,” Shabelle News, January 29, 2017,; and “Al Shabaab planning major attack in Nairobi, DCI claims, The Star, January 28, 2017,
[8] “Senior al Shabaab commander killed in Gedo,” Shabelle News, January 29, 2017,; and Abdullahi Qanas killed by Somali special forces, Twitter, January 29, 2017,
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