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: UN Special Envoy to Yemen meets with senior al Houthi officials in Sana’a; U.S. officials confirm strike killing USS Cole bombing planner; U.S. Senate confirms new ambassador to Yemen; coalition air defense system intercepts al Houthi missile in Taiz governorate; AQAP releases video of attacks on al Hizam Security Forces in Abyan governorate

Horn of Africa: U.S. Department of Defense denies plans to scale back operations in Somalia; UNSC regrets SFG’s expulsion of UN envoy; SNA court executes two al Shabaab assassins in Mogadishu; Ethiopian PM and Eritrean President open new border crossing

Yemen Security Brief

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths met separately with al Houthi movement leader Abdel Malik al Houthi and Chairman of the al Houthi Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali al Houthi in Sana’a, Yemen on January 6. Griffiths discussed the implementation of the Stockholm agreement, including the withdrawal of al Houthi forces from al Hudaydah governorate and its ports. Griffiths left Sana’a on January 7 and is traveling to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to meet with officials in President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government.[1]

U.S. defense officials confirmed on January 6 that a U.S. airstrike killed Jamal al Badawi, a planner of al Qaeda’s 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. A U.S. airstrike killed Badawi in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen on January 1.[2]

The U.S. Senate confirmed Christopher Henzel as the new U.S. ambassador to Yemen to replace Matthew Tueller on January 2. Henzel has served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia since 2016 and is a career Foreign Service Officer.[3]

A Saudi-led coalition Patriot missile defense system intercepted an al Houthi P1 ballistic missile that targeted the Khaled bin al Waleed army camp in western Taiz governorate, southwestern Yemen on January 6.[4]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video showing recent attacks on al Hizam Security Forces in Wadea district, central Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on December 29. An AQAP member accused the al Hizam forces of being mercenaries fighting against Islam on behalf of the UAE in the video.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The U.S. Department of Defense is planning to scale back operations in Somalia, according to a January 4 NBC report. The Trump administration has reportedly determined that al Shabaab does not pose a direct threat to U.S. interests and that U.S. airstrikes have already eliminated a number of the group’s senior leaders. A Defense Department spokeswoman denied the NBC report on January 4 and said that U.S. forces “continue to support the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to degrade al-Shabab.”[6]

The UN Security Council expressed regret on January 5 in response to a Somali Federal Government (SFG) decision to declare UN envoy Nicholas Haysom a persona non grata. The UN stated that it will replace Haysom in order to sustain its work in Somalia. SFG officials expelled Haysom on January 2 after he expressed concerns over the SFG’s detention of former al Shabaab deputy leader and South West State presidential candidate Mukhtar Robow.[7]

A Somali National Army (SNA) court executed two al Shabaab assassins in Mogadishu on January 7. Somali police arrested the assassins in November 2016 after they killed a traditional elder.[8]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki oversaw the opening of the Oumajir-Humera border crossing on January 7. Humera is in northern Tigray region, Ethiopia, and Oumajir in southwestern Gash-Barka region, Eritrea.[9]

[1] “Chairman of the al Houthi Revolutionary Committee meets with UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths,” Saba, January 6, 2018,; “Griffiths leaves Sana’a and no progress with regards to the Stockholm agreement,” Al Arabiya, January 7, 2018,

[2] Nancy Youssef and Rebecca Ballhaus, “U.S. kills al Qaeda figure accused of leading 2000 attack on USS Cole,” The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2019,

[3] “PN2547 — Christopher Paul Henzel — Department of State,” United States Congress,; and “Report for the Committee on Foreign Relations,” Department of State, October 2018,

[4] “The interception of an al Houthi ballistic missile that targeted a military camp western Taiz,” Bawabatii, January, 6, 2018,

[5] “AQAP video shows attacks on SBF “Mercenaries” in Abyan,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 9, English translation available by subscription at

[6] Dan De Luce and Courtney Kube, “Pentagon plans to scale back in Somalia, latest sign that Trump wants to cut troops abroad,” NBC, January 4, 2019,; and “Pentagon Denies Scaling Back Operations in Somalia,” Voice Of America, January 5, 2019,

[7] “Security Council Regrets Somalia's Expulsion of UN Envoy,” Associated Press, January 5, 2019,; and “Somalia expels UN envoy Nicholas Haysom,” BBC, January 2, 2019,

[8] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Somalia military court executes two Al-Shabaab assassins,” Africa News, January 7, 2019,; Harun Maruf, Twitter, January 7, 2019,; and “Somali military court executes two Al-Shabaab militants,” Radio Shabelle, January 7, 2019,

[9] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Ethiopia-Eritrea officially open border crossing point,” Africa News, January 7, 2019,; Yemane G. Meskel, Twitter, January 7, 2019,; and Office of the Prime Minister - Ethiopia, Twitter, January 7, 2019,

View Citations
Arrow down red
Feb '19
Jan '19
Dec '18