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.{{authorBox.message}}

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Yemen: Al Qaeda Central eulogizes former AQAP leader and approves his successor; Saudi plane carrying newly trained Hadi government forces arrives in Aden city; al Houthis claim intercepting Saudi-led coalition planes

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM conducts airstrike killing al Shabaab militants in south-central Somalia; al Shabaab claims overrunning Jubbaland State security forces base in southwestern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief:

Al Qaeda Central eulogized former al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Qasim al Raymi and approved his successor, Khaled Batarfi, on March 30. The eulogy mentioned Raymi’s time training in Afghanistan before returning to Yemen and praised Batarfi’s leadership and experience. Batarfi pledged allegiance to al Qaeda Central leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a video released in mid-March.[1]

A Saudi military plane carrying Saudi-backed forces aligned with the internationally recognized Yemeni government of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi reportedly arrived in Aden city in southern Yemen from Saudi Arabia on April 2. A Saudi committee responsible for implementing the November 2019 Riyadh Agreement reportedly trained the troops to be responsible for securing government buildings previously controlled by the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces in Aden. The Riyadh Agreement called for a power-sharing agreement between the Hadi government and the UAE-backed STC forces in southern Yemen.[2]

Al Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea released a statement on April 2 claiming that the al Houthi air defense system intercepted Saudi-led coalition warplanes flying over al Jawf governorate in northern Yemen. Sarea claimed that the al Houthi militants intercepted a Saudi-led coalition fighter jet in al Jawf governorate in mid-March.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

US Africa Command conducted an airstrike killing three al Shabaab militants near Bush Madina in south-central Somalia’s Bay region on April 2. AFRICOM conducted an airstrike targeting al Shabaab near Buulo Fuulay in the Bay region on March 27.[4]

Al Shabaab claimed overrunning a Jubbaland State security forces base near Dhobley in southwestern Somalia’s Lower Jubba region on March 31. Jubbaland State security forces have not yet commented on this attack. Locals reportedly heard gunfire exchanged between the militants and Jubbaland State security forces. The African Union Mission to Somalia established a new military base for the Somali National Army near Dhobley in late March.[5]


[1] “Al-Qaeda central mourns former AQAP leader Qassim al-rimi, blessed successor,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 1, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 23, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 23, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-23-2020.

[2] “Military forces arrive in Aden International airport on a Saudi plane,” al Mashhad al Yemeni, April 3, 2020, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/161998; and James Barnett, “Yemen File – November 7, 2019,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 8, 2019, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/yemen-file/yemen-file-november-7-2019.

[3] “Yemen’s houthi air defences intercept Saudi warplanes over jawf,” Middle East monitor, April 3, 2020, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200403-yemens-houthi-air-defences-intercept-saudi-warplanes-over-jawf/; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 16, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 16, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-16-2020.

[4] “Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM target al-Shabaab,” AFRICOM, April 3, 2020, https://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/32659/federal-government-of-somalia-africom-target-al-shabaab; and Jessica Kocan and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 30, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 30, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review.

[5] “Al-Shabaab Took Over Areas in Lower Jubba,” Radio Dalsan, April 2, 2020, https://www.radiodalsan.com/en/2020/04/02/al-shabaab-took-over-areas-in-lower-jubba/; “Shabaab Claims Multiple Assassinations, Bombings in 2nd Consecutive Week of Frequent Military Activity,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 2, 2020, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 24, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 24, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-24-2020.

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Yemen: Hadi government forces claim capturing al Houthi-held territory in Ma’rib governorate; Hadi government forces accuse al Houthis of attempting to assassinate Hadi government official in Sana’a; al Houthis seize humanitarian aid and prevent distribution in Hajjah governorate

Horn of Africa: Somali Attorney General’s bodyguards shoot at checkpoint near former Somali president’s residence in Mogadishu; Somali Ministry of Information defends AFRICOM airstrikes in Somalia

Yemen Security Brief:

Saudi-backed forces aligned with the internationally recognized Yemeni government of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi claimed capturing territory from the al Houthi movement in Hilan in Ma’rib governorate in northern Yemen on April 1. A Hadi government general said that forces gained control over Misra and Mimna, inflicting several al Houthi militant casualties. Saudi-backed forces claimed recapturing several areas from the al Houthi movement in Sirwah district in Ma’rib governorate on March 31.[1]

Hadi government forces accused the al Houthi movement of attempting to assassinate a Hadi government official in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on April 1. The official belonged to a political party previously led by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to local sources.[2]

Al Houthi militants seized humanitarian aid belonging to the World Food Program (WFP) and prevented aid distribution in Abs district in Hajjah governorate in northwestern Yemen, according to local sources. The al Houthi militants reportedly threatened to destroy 175 tons of wheat and seized six WFP convoys transporting flour, claiming that the food was unsafe for human consumption. The al Houthi movement claimed burning 160 tons of wheat from the WFP in Taiz governorate in southwestern Yemen in mid-March.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

Bodyguards belonging to the Somali Attorney General shot at a security checkpoint outside the residence of former Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in the Somali capital Mogadishu on April 1. The attack caused no injuries. Ahmed is the leader of the Forum for National Political Parties (FNP), a coalition of Somali opposition political parties. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) denied on March 24 FNP accusations that the SFG was planning to attack Ahmed’s residence.[4]

The Somali Ministry of Information released a statement on April 1 defending US Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) airstrike campaign in Somalia. The Somali government accused al Shabaab of using civilians as human shields to avoid airstrikes and described AFRICOM as essential to military operations against al Shabaab. Amnesty International released a report on April 1 accusing AFRICOM of causing civilian airstrike casualties in Somalia and failing to investigate them.[5]


[1] “The army has made great progress on the Hailan and Madun front towards Sana’a,” Mareb press, April 2, 2020, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=162332.

[2] “ A Yemeni leader survived an assassination attempt and accusation of houthi,” 7adramout, April 2, 2020, https://www.7adramout.net/al-ain/7346042/%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86---%D9%86%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%A9-%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D8%BA%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A.html.

[3] “Houthis impose new obstacles on WFP aid in Hajjah, Yemen,” Asharq al Awsat, April 2, 2020, https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2212796/houthis-impose-new-obstacles-wfp-aid-hajjah-yemen; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – March 17, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 17, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-17-2020.   

[4] “Police fire shots at former president's home in Mogadishu Somalia,” Garowe, April 2, 2020, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-police-fire-shots-at-former-presidents-home-in-mogadishu; and “Somalia says reports of plot to attack ex-president Sharif ‘baseless’,” Somali Affairs, March 24, 2020, https://www.somaliaffairs.com/news/somalia-says-reports-of-plot-to-attack-ex-president-sharif-baseless/.

[5] Somali Ministry of Information, Twitter, April 1, 2020, https://twitter.com/MOISOMALIA/status/1245419210181935104; and Pamela Makadsi and Samuel Bloebaum, “Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 1, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, April 1, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-april-1-2020.

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Yemen:  Saudi-backed Hadi government forces claim recapturing al Houthi territory in Ma’rib governorate; Hadi government forces claim retaking al Houthi territory in Sa’ada governorate

Horn of Africa:  AFRICOM announces investigative initiative over alleged civilian airstrike casualties in Somalia; al Shabaab detonates IED killing SNA troops and civilian in Mogadishu; Ethiopian gunmen clash with KDF in northern Kenya

Yemen Security Brief:

The Saudi-backed forces aligned with the internationally recognized Yemeni government of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi claimed that they recaptured several areas from the al Houthi movement in Sirwah district in Ma’rib governorate in northern Yemen on March 31. The coalition-backed forces took control of al Muhtadi, al Khattab, and Qaher Saba in Sirwah district, according to an anonymous military source. Saudi-backed Hadi government forces claimed attacking al Houthi militants in Sirwah district on March 31.[1]

Hadi government forces released a statement on March 31 claiming that they retook several areas from al Houthi militants in Baqim district in Sa’ada governorate in northern Yemen. A Hadi military official claimed that Hadi government forces captured al Houthi militants and inflicted several casualties. Saudi-backed Hadi government forces seized an area from the al Houthi movement in al Safra district in Sa’ada governorate on March 31.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced on March 31 that it would begin releasing quarterly investigative reports over allegations concerning civilian airstrike casualties in Somalia. This announcement came hours before Amnesty International published a report claiming that two AFRICOM airstrikes killed and injured civilians near Jilib in southern Somalia’s Middle Jubba region in February. Amnesty International previously released a report on AFRICOM civilian casualties in March 2019.[3]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device targeting a Somali National Army (SNA) vehicle near a hospital in Hodan district in the Somali capital Mogadishu on April 1. Gunmen shot at the vehicle after the blast, killing two SNA soldiers, one civilian, and injuring three unidentified bystanders. An al Shabaab militant detonated a suicide vest killing three civilians near the Somali Parliament in Mogadishu on March 25.[4]

Ethiopian gunmen clashed with the Kenyan Defense Force in Moyale in northern Kenya’s Marsabit County on April 1. These clashes occurred after gunmen attacked Kenyan construction workers digging tunnels along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border. The county administration hired the workers for this project to stop movement along the border to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.[5]


[1] “Advances to the national army in Marib and Saada,” Mareb Press, April 1, 2020, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=162285; and Jessica Kocan and Samuel Bloebaum,  “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 31, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 31, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-31-2020.

[2]  “Advances to the national army in Marib and Saada,” Mareb Press, April 1, 2020, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=162285; and Jessica Kocan and Samuel Bloebaum,  “Gulf of Aden Security Review - March 31, 2020,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 31, 2020, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-march-31-2020.

[3] “AFRICOM Civilian Casualty Status Report Initiative,” AFRICOM, March 31, 2020, https://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/32658/africom-civilian-casualty-status-report-initiative; “Zero accountability as civilian deaths mount from US air strikes,” Amnesty International, April 1, 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/somalia-zero-accountability-as-civilian-deaths-mount-from-us-air-strikes/; and “The Hidden US War in Somalia,” Amnesty International, March 19, 2019, https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/the-hidden-us-war-in-somalia/.

[4] Harun Maruf, “Three Dead in Mogadishu Blast,” Voice of America Somali, April 1, 2020, https://www.voasomali.com/a/5355025.html; and “Roadside bomb hit gov't forces vehicle in Hodan district, Mogadishu,” Goobjoog, April 1, 2020, http://goobjoog.com/english/breaking-newsroadside-bomb-hit-govt-forces-vehicle-in-hodan-district-mogadishu/.

[5] Jacob Walter, “Ethiopian Gunmen Open Fire On Kenyan Workers in Moyale,” Daily Nation, April 1, 2020, https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/marsabit/Ethiopian-gunmen-open-fire-on-Kenyan-workers/3444778-5510940-e6jyqx/index.html.

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