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: Sana’a GPC faction names new leader; al Houthi movement claims to down Saudi warplane in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed forces in southern and eastern Yemen; Salafi-jihadi militants attack al Houthi forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen

Horn of Africa: Somaliland forces capture town in disputed Sool region, northern Somalia; Galmudug and Puntland administrations approach peace agreement; Ethiopia arrests 107 suspects for ethnic violence; Sudan closes border with Eritrea

Yemen Security Brief

The Sana’a-based faction of the General People’s Congress (GPC) party appointed Sadeq Amin Abu Ras as its leader on January 7. The GPC fractured after al Houthi forces killed late former Yemeni president and GPC head Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017. The Sana’a GPC faction condemned the Saudi-led coalition and called for the al Houthi movement to release all GPC prisoners. GPC factions are also based in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Some GPC officials fled to Ma’rib city, northern Yemen due to an al Houthi crackdown on GPC members in Sana’a following Saleh’s death.[1] 

The al Houthi movement claimed to down a Saudi warplane, a British-made Tornado combat aircraft, in Kataf district, Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on January 7. A coalition official blamed the crash on technical failure and stated that that coalition forces rescued two pilots from the crash.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked Emirati-backed forces on January 6, according to AQAP’s official social media channel. AQAP militants fired five Grad rockets at the Belhaf gas plant in Rudum district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen. AQAP stated in its claim that Emirati-backed Shabwani Elite Forces use the facility as a headquarters. AQAP militants also attacked an Emirati-backed al Hizam commander with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Wade’a district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen.[3]

Salafi-jihadi militants attacked al Houthi forces in northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. AQAP militants attacked al Houthi forces five times between December 24 and January 4, according to AQAP’s official social media channel. Unofficial pro-AQAP channels claimed at least ten AQAP attacks against al Houthi forces in al Bayda during this same time period. Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda militants detonated an IED that killed three al Houthi soldiers in northwestern al Bayda on January 7, the group’s first claimed attack since November 2017.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somaliland forces captured Tukaraq town in Sool region, northern Somalia from Puntland forces on January 8. Sool is a region disputed by Puntland and Somaliland. Somali Federal Government (SFG) President Mohamed Farmajo visited Puntland for the first time since his election on January 7. A SFG minister also visited the town of Badhan in Sanaag region, another disputed region, on January 4. Somaliland forces likely seized Tukaraq in response to SFG President Farmajo’s visit to Puntland and the SFG minister’s visit to Sanaag. Tuko Raq is located approximately 20 miles from the Sool regional capital of Las Anod and 50 miles from Puntland’s capital, Garowe.[5] 

Puntland and Galmudug State leaders will complete a new power-sharing agreement for the administration of Galkayo city in the near term, according to Somali National Army (SNA) commander General Abdiweli Jama Gorod. SNA forces took over security in the city following an escalation in clashes between rival Puntland and Galmudug militias in December 2017. Galmudug and Puntland jointly administer Galkayo, but Puntland currently controls three of city’s four districts. Galmudug State leaders negotiated a power sharing-agreement with Ahlu Sunna Wa al Jama’a, a moderate Sufi militant group, to reclaim the Galmudug State capital of Dhusamareb on December 4.[6]  

Ethiopian forces arrested 107 suspects accused of inciting ethnic violence in the Oromia and Somali regions on January 6. Government forces and Somali Liyu police have killed hundreds of Oromos since October 2017. The Commissioner of Ethiopia Federal Police Commission stated that the suspects include 98 Oromos and nine Somalis. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated on January 3 that the government would release all political prisoners to begin a reconciliation process with aggrieved ethnic communities. It is not yet clear if the most recent arrests targeted activists.[7]

Sudan closed its border with Eritrea on January 5 to stop arms trafficking, according to Sudanese state media. The closure followed the deployment of Emirati-backed Egyptian forces to Eritrea on January 4 in response to the signing of a military agreement between Turkey and Sudan. Sudan also deployed troops at the Eritrean border on January 4, citing unrest in Eritrea and Ethiopian rebel activity.[8]

[1] “The General Committee approves the appointment of Sadiq Amin Abu Ras as chairman of the General People’s Congress,” Saba News, January 7, 2018,; “Yemeni party names new leader after Saleh killed,” Reuters, January 7, 2018,; “The first individuals of Saleh’s family arrive in Ma’rib and declare support for the legitimacy of President Hadi,” Ma’rib Press, January 2, 2018,
[2] “Yemeni air defenses drop a Tornado aircraft in Sa’ada,” Al Masirah, January 7, 2018,; “Arab Coalition Forces Command announces the rescue of two pilots whose fighter suffered a technical failure,” Saudi Press Agency, January 7, 2018,; and “Saudi-led coalition warplane crashes in Yemen: Saudi statement,” Reuters, January 7, 2018,
[3] AQAP targets Balhaf gas plant, January 6, 2018, Telegram; AQAP targets security commander, January 7, 2018, Telegram; “AQAP claims rocket attack on Balhaf gas plant in Shabwa, strikes on Houthis in al Bayda,” SITE, January 6, 2018, available by subscription at
[4] AQAP targets al Houthi forces, January 6, 2018, Telegram; “AQAP claims rocket attack on Balhaf gas plant in Shabwa, strikes on Houthis in al Bayda,” SITE, January 6, 2018, available by subscription at; and Demonlinari, Twitter, January 7, 2018,
[5] “Somalia: Somaliland forces take control of Tukaraq,” Garowe Online, January 8, 2018,
[6] “We shall complete Galkayo reconciliation process says General Gorod,” Goobjoog, January 8, 2018,
[7] “Ethiopia arrests 107 relating to regional conflicts,” Radio Shabelle, January 6, 2018,
[8] “Sudan shuts border with Eritrea: state media,” News 24, January 7, 2018,; “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,

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