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: Saudi Arabia increases airstrikes on al Houthi-Saleh positions throughout Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces continue missile strikes along Saudi border; popular resistance forces impose a curfew on Aden cit, following clashes in Aden’s port; Ansar al Sharia releases video showing interrogation of al Houthi captive
Horn of Africa: al Shabaab temporarily captures Warmahan village, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab releases recruitment video targeting Westerners; al Shabaab militants briefly seize Qarsa village, Wajir County, Kenya; unidentified gunmen kill Turkish national in Mogadishu, Banadir region; ASWJ arrests up to 20 suspected pro-ISIS militants in Guriel, Galgadud region
Yemen Security Brief
- The Saudi-led coalition intensified airstrikes on al Houthi-Saleh positions in Sana’a and al Bayda governorates, as well as other targets throughout Yemen, between January 2 and January 4. Sources claim that the airstrikes are the heaviest since the September 2015 campaign, which preceded ground offensives in Taiz, al Bayda, Ma’rib, and Ibb governorates in central Yemen. The increase in airstrikes occurred alongside Saudi Arabia’s recent severing of diplomatic relations with Iran, which has been accused of supporting the al Houthi movement in Yemen.
- Al Houthi-Saleh forces continued a string of cross-border missile attacks targeting southern Saudi Arabia with an attack on Jazan district and a rumored attack in Asir province on January 1. Saudi sources claim an al Houthi missile killed three Saudi Arabian civilians in an attack on residential districts in Jazan on December 31. Pro-al Houthi Saba News reported al Houthis fired a Qaher-I ballistic missile toward Abha, the capital of Asir province, which is located more than 100 kilometers from the Saudi-Yemeni border. The claim of the attack on Abha is unconfirmed.
- Officials from President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government in Aden city imposed a curfew on January 4, following a weekend of fighting at the port of Aden that left 17 dead. Reports indicate that pro-government forces clashed with local militia fighters before securing the port. Some reports claim that the pro-government forces clashed with Islamist militants, and suspected Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants shot and killed a Sufi imam in Aden on the same day. The clashes at Aden’s port follow the December 31 assassination of a local Southern Movement commander by unidentified gunmen.
- Ansar al Sharia, the militant arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, released a video on January 1 depicting the interrogation of a captured al Houthi fighter and requesting a prisoner exchange between Ansar al Sharia and the al Houthis. This video comes as part of Ansar al Sharia’s campaign to cast its military activity in Yemen as part of an anti-al Houthi popular resistance.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab militants temporarily captured the Lower Shabelle region’s Warmahan village on January 1. The militants attacked at night on January 1, driving Somali National Army (SNA) forces from the town and taking control of a police station. SNA forces launched a counter-attack on January 2 and successfully recaptured the town. SNA forces killed seven militants and sustained one casualty during the clashes.
- Al Shabaab’s media wing, al Kataib, released a recruitment video entitled “The Path 2 Paradise: From the Twin Cities to the land of Two Migrations, Episode 2,” on January 1. The video was released in both English and Arabic and distributed on Twitter and Telegram. The video is centered on Westerners, including Americans, who joined the group and were killed in combat. Additionally, the video focuses on racial and religious tensions in the West and includes video clips of Malcolm X as well as presidential candidate Donald Trump. The video calls for Westerners to join al Shabaab and take up arms against the West.
- Al Shabaab militants briefly seized the Qarsa village in Kenya’s Wajir County on December 31. The militants took control of the town for approximately five hours, preached to the residents, and warned them against informing the police. The militants fled the scene before police arrived.
- Unidentified gunmen killed a Turkish national in Mogadishu’s Hodan district, Banadir region on January 1. The victim was leaving a mosque when gunmen in a vehicle opened fire, mortally wounding him. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a (ASWJ), a moderate Islamist paramilitary group, arrested up to 20 suspected pro-Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants on January 1 in Guri’el, Galgudud region. ASWJ claimed that the pro-ISIS militants were previously members of al Shabaab who were trying to form a cell in the Galgudud region. ASWJ’s claims are unverified.