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-led coalition claims control of strategic port city of Midi in northern Hajjah governorate; Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of bombing embassy in Sana’a; Hadi government expels UN human rights official; coalition intensifies airstrikes on Sana’a

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks SNA outpost in Gof-Gadud, Bay region; al Shabaab launches mortars at Presidential Palace in Mogadishu’s Wardhigley district, Banadir region; suspected al Shabaab gunmen kill former al Shabaab commander in Bardere, Gedo region

Yemen Security Brief

  • Coalition officials announced on January 6 that they have taken control of the port city of Midi in northern Hajjah governorate. Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government landed in the port on January 6 and met significant al Houthi-Saleh resistance as they pushed inland. Coalition-backed forces pushed al Houthi-Saleh militias out of the city and are now pursuing control of the areas between Midi and the area of al Jarr in the central district of ‘Abs. Coalition airstrikes targeted many sites throughout Hajjah, including al Jarr and the northern city of Haradh, near the Saudi-Yemeni border. The capture of Midi stands both to disrupt al Houthi-Saleh arms smuggling routes and to provide coalition and pro-Hadi forces a base in northern Yemen, near the al Houthi stronghold of Sa’ada.[1]
  • Iran accused Saudi Arabia of deliberately bombing the Iranian embassy in Sana’a during the night of January 6. Multiple local observers contradicted this claim and reported that the embassy suffered no damage. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes did hit a nearby residence, reportedly the home of a son of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Shrapnel from that attack reportedly wounded nearby Iranian guards. A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition affirmed that the coalition would investigate Iran’s claim. The accusation comes amid escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shi’a cleric Nimr al-Nimr, which incited attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the subsequent severance of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.[2]
  • President Hadi’s government declared the country representative for Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) a persona non grata. The announcement may be a response to the OHCHR’s recent press release alleging the use of cluster bombs by the Hadi government’s coalition backers in Hajjah governorate. International humanitarian law forbids the use of cluster munitions.[3]
  • Coalition airstrikes on the al Houthi-held capital Sana’a reached some of the heaviest levels since the beginning of the Saudi-led campaign in March, according to residents. Strikes targeted several al Houthi military sites, including the presidential palace and a base south of the city.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab attacked a Somali National Army (SNA) outpost on January 7 in Gof-Gadud village, 30 km east of Baidoa, Bay region, killing at least ten SNA soldiers and wounding others before leaving the area.   Regional government officials contradicted the residents’ account and stated that government forces repulsed the attack, killing seven militants while sustaining one casualty.[5] 
  • Al Shabaab claimed credit for a mortar attack on Somalia’s presidential palace on January 7 in Mogadishu’s Wardhigley district, Banadir region. Residents reported hearing six explosions. The mortars failed to hit the palace directly and instead landed close to the perimeter wall. The attack did not harm any government officials, but police reported two civilian deaths and three injuries.[6]
  • Suspected al Shabaab gunmen killed Farah Ali Abdi Hariye, a former al Shabaab commander, on January 6 in Bardere, Gedo region. The gunmen fired on Hariye when he was without his guards, killing him and fleeing the scene. Hariye surrendered to government forces early in 2015 and helped the SNA recapture Bardere from al Shabaab in July. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, although it was likely conducted by al Shabaab in retaliation for Hariye’s cooperation with the Somali government.[7]

[1] “Heaviest air strikes yet strike yemeni capital Sanaa: residents,” Reuters, January 7, 2016,
“What does the al Houthi loss of the port of Midi mean?” Al Masdar Online, January 7, 2016,
[2] Thomas Erdbrink and Kareem Fahim, “Iran Accuses Saudi Arabia of Hitting Embassy in Yemen,” The New York Times, January 7, 2016,
“Iran accuses Saudi warplanes of attacking its embassy in Yemen,” Reuters, January 7 ,2015,
[3] Saba’ News, January 7, 2016,
[4] “Heaviest air strikes yet strike yemeni capital Sanaa: residents,” Reuters, January 7, 2016,
[5] “Somalia: Al shabaab raids army base near Baidoa, 10 soldiers dead,” Shabelle News, January 7, 2015,
Live From Mogadishu, Twitter, January 7, 2016,
[6] “BREAKING: Mortar shells rain down near Somali palace,” Shabelle News, January 7, 2015,
“At least 3 mortar strikes land in vicinities of Somali Presidential palace today,” Goobjoog News, January 7, 2015,, Twitter, January 7, 2016,
Live From Mogadishu, Twitter, January 7, 2016,
[7] “A militant who defected to SNA killed in Bardere,” Shabelle News, January 7, 2016,
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