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: Al Houthi forces fire ballistic missile at southern Saudi Arabia; al Houthi forces launch ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen; U.S. sanctions senior AQAP militant; al Mahrah governor inaugurates security projects in eastern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Emirati-backed Egyptian forces deploy to Eritrea; SNA forces kill al Shabaab deputy commander in outskirts of Mogadishu; U.S. designates al Shabaab deputy leader; IED kills Djiboutian AMISOM soldier in Hiraan region, central Somalia; poor rainy season expected to worsen Somali humanitarian crisis

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi air defense systems intercepted an al Houthi short-range ballistic missile in Najran, southern Saudi Arabia on January 5, according to the Saudi-led coalition. The al Houthi movement called the missile launch a successful test and claimed the missile hit a military camp in Najran. Al Houthi forces regularly fire short-range ballistic missiles across the Saudi-Yemeni border in reprisal for Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.[1]

Al Houthi forces launched a Qaher-M2 ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in al Khawkhah city, al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on January 5. The al Houthi movement claimed the missile successfully hit its target. Anti-al Houthi sources reported that the missile landed in the northeastern outskirts of al Khawkhah city. Hadi government forces took control of al Khawkhah city from al Houthi forces in December 2017.[2]

The U.S. Department of State and Department of Treasury sanctioned senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) official Muhammad al Ghazali as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on January 4. Al Ghazali is responsible for AQAP’s internal security and training AQAP militants and has previously fundraised for AQAP. Al Ghazali helped plan the failed assassination attempt on former Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef in August 2009.[3]

Al Mahrah Governor Rajeh Said Bakrit inaugurated multiple security sector projects aimed to strengthen services and infrastructure in al Ghaydah city, al Mahrah governorate, eastern Yemen on January 5. Saudi Arabia sent military support and equipment to al Ghayda city on January 4. Al Mahri tribal leaders reaffirmed their willingness to cooperate with the Saudi-led coalition’s anti-smuggling efforts under the condition that the coalition coordinates with local authorities and does not empower select tribes on December 27, 2017. Iran has used smuggling routes through al Mahrah to support the al Houthi movement throughout the civil war.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Emirati-backed Egyptian forces deployed to Eritrea on January 4, according to a Qatari newspaper. The deployment may be a response to Turkish efforts to secure a military base in Sudan. Sudanese forces deployed toward the Eritrean border in response.[5]

Somali National Army (SNA) forces killed 11 al Shabaab militants near Awdheegle town in Lower Shabelle region on January 4. The attack killed al Shabaab’s deputy commander for Lower Shabelle region, Mohammed Abu Abdalla. The group was reportedly planning an attack on SNA bases on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab demoted Abu Abdalla, formerly its overall commander in Lower Shabelle region, in May 2016.[6]

The U.S. Department of State designated deputy al Shabaab leader Abukar Ali Adan as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The U.S. Department of the Treasury added Adan to its Specially Designated Nationals list. Adan has acted as al Shabaab’s regional commander in the Jubba region in southern Somalia and the Hiraan region in central Somalia.[7]

A roadside improvised explosive device (IED) likely planted by al Shabaab killed a Djiboutian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier near Bulobarde town in Hiraan region, central Somalia on January 5. Another IED killed a soldier from the same AMISOM contingent in the area on December 28.[8]

Drought and hunger in Somalia will likely worsen in 2018. Expected October-December rains fell far below average, marking the fourth consecutive failed rainy season. An estimated six million Somalia already require humanitarian aid.[9]

Update: A prior version of the Gulf of Aden Security Review stated that an al Shabaab commander named Mohammed Abu Abdalla was killed in a U.S. airstrike in November 2015. Abu Abadalla’s death was falsely reported at that time.


[1] “Commander of the Joint Forces of the Alliance, Alliance for supporting the legitimacy in Yemen: Saudi Royal Air Force intercepts and destroys a ballistic missile fired at Najran,” Saudi Press Agency, January 5, 2018,; “The Missile Force announces the success of a ballistic missile launch test targeting a Saudi military camp in Najran,” Al Masirah, January 5, 2018,; and “Yemen Rebels Say They Fired Missile at Saudi Military Camp,” The New York Times, January 5, 2018,

[2] “Qaher-M2 ballistic missile hits mercenary groups on the west coast,” Al Masirah, January 5, 2018,; and “Al Houthi militia launches ballistic missile on al Khawkhah city in al Hudaydah,” Barakish, January 5, 2018,

[3] “State Department Terrorist Designations of Muhammad al-Ghazali, Abukar Ali Adan, and Wanas al-Faqih,” U.S. Department of State, January 4, 2018,; “Non-proliferation Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 4, 2018,

[4] “Al Mahrah governor sets the cornerstone for security sector projects and emphasizes the lifting of security concerns,” Aden Tomorrow, January 5, 2018,; “Saudi Arabia supports security forces with new equipment,” Aden Tomorrow, January 4, 2018,; and Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, January 4, 2018,

[5] “UAE-backed Egyptian forces arrive in Eritrea,” Middle East Monitor, January 4, 2018,;  Sami Moubayed, “Erdogan snares an ancient port on the Red Sea - with funds from Qatar?” Asia Times, January 2, 2018,; and  “Ambiguity surrounding the tasks of the Sudanese forces deployed on the border with Eritrea,” Sudan Tribune, January 5, 2018,

[6] “Somalia: Military raid kills Senior Al-Shabab commander,” Garowe Online, January 4, 2018,;  Goldberg, “Al Shabaab’s Deputy Commander in Lower Shabelle, 11 Militants Killed in Military Operation by Somalia’s Military,” Intelligence Briefs, January 5, 2018,; and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Al-Shabaab Leadership Demotes Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdalla Lower Shabelle Representative,” Intelligence Briefs, May 6, 2016,

[7] “State Department Terrorist Designations of Muhammad al-Ghazali, Abukar Ali Adan, and Wanas al-Faqih,” U.S. Department of State, January 4, 2018,; “Non-proliferation Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 4, 2018,; “Al Shabaab charges Kenya with air-strikes at southern Somalia town,” Shabelle Media Network, October 24, 2011,; and  “Letter dated 10 March 2010 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea addressed to the President of the Security Council,” UN Security Council, March 10, 2010.

[8] Harun Maruf, Twitter, January 5, 2018,

[9] “Failed rains leave Somalis fearful,” Trocaire, January 4, 2018,

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