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: US airstrike targets AQAP emir; al Houthis ready to discuss prisoner swap with Sudan

Horn of Africa: Russia considers building military base in Somaliland

Yemen Security Brief

A US airstrike targeted and may have killed al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP) emir Qassem al Raymi in Yemen in late January. Local sources reported that a drone strike killed two militants in Wadi Abida in Ma’rib governorate in northern Yemen on January 25. Salafi-jihadi accounts circulated a eulogy for Raymi on January 29. A US Special Forces raid reportedly targeted Raymi at an AQAP headquarters in northwestern al Bayda governorate in central Yemen in January 2017. US officials identified Raymi as the third most dangerous global terrorist.[1]

An al Houthi official announced the movement’s willingness to discuss a prisoner swap with Sudanese officials through the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The official made the statement on an al Houthi-run media channel on January 30. Sudanese officials stated last month that they have 5,000 troops in Yemen as part of the Saudi-led coalition.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Russian officials are considering the Somaliland port of Berbera as a potential location for a military base in the Horn of Africa, according to US Department of Defense officials. This would be Russia’s first permanent base in Africa. The Kremlin has also demonstrated interest in building a naval logistics center in Eritrea, according to US officials. The head of US Africa Command, Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 30 in support of maintaining a US military presence in Africa to serve as a key part of the Trump administration’s effort to counter Russian and Chinese global competition.[3]

[1] Rukmini Callimachi, Eric Schmitt, and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Strikes at Leader of Qaeda in Yemen,” New York Times, January 31, 2020,; “Jihadists Speculate AQAP Leader Killed in U.S. Drone Strike in Marib,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 30, 2020, available by subscription at ; and Maher Farrukh, “Yemen Situation Report,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 8, 2020,

[2]“Yemen’s Houthis offer talks for Sudan prisoner swap via Red Cross: TV,” Reuters, January 30, 2020,

[3] Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Russia Exerts Growing Influence in Africa, Worrying Many in the West,” New York Times, January 28, 2020,; and Jared Szuba, “Africa offers US a ‘competitive edge’ over Russian and China, Townsend says,” Defense Post, January 31, 2020,  

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