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: Reported U.S. airstrike kills AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; pipeline explodes in al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen; security forces interdict suicide bomber in Aden city; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missiles toward Mokha district and Ma’rib city; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in southern and eastern Yemen; AQAP militants detonate IED targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate; Hadi government-allied forces repel al Houthi-Saleh attack in Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen; popular resistance forces kill al Houthi-Saleh media official in Mokha district; al Houthi-Saleh artillery kills Indian resident in southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants target SNA commander and soldiers in multiple attacks in Mogadishu; KDF forces kill senior al Shabaab commander in Lower Jubba region; Somali president travels to UAE for official state visit; Somali pirates hijack Lebanese vessel near Socotra

Yemen Security Brief

A reported U.S. airstrike killed two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on April 9. The militants were traveling on a motorcycle in al Sawmah district, southern al Bayda governorate. U.S. forces have conducted multiple airstrikes in al Sawmah in 2017. More than 70 U.S. airstrikes targeted AQAP militants in March.[1] 

The Ma’rib-Ras Isa oil pipeline exploded in Bajil district, northwestern al Hudaydah governorate on April 8, killing nine civilians and critically wounding at least thirty others. The pipeline was reportedly damaged and leaking oil before the explosion. Al Houthi-Saleh news sources claimed to arrest three people for tampering with the pipeline. Anti-al Houthi media accused al Houthi-Saleh forces of starting the fire. Local tribesmen often sabotaged the Ma’rib-Ras Isa pipeline between 2011 and 2014 to extract concessions from the government in Sana’a.[2]

Security forces interdicted a suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform in al Tawahi district, southern Aden city on April 8. An undercover security official killed the suicide bomber as he approached a military base in al Tawahi. ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan claimed responsibility for the last suicide bombing on an Aden military base in December 2016. AQAP militants equipped with suicide vests (SVESTs) and military uniforms attacked a government headquarters in Lahij governorate, north of Aden, on March 27.[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired eight ballistic missiles toward forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Mokha district, western Taiz governorate on April 8. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also fired a ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in Ma’rib city, central Ma’rib governorate on April 9. Saudi-led coalition air defense systems intercepted the missiles. This attack marks the highest number of missiles fired by al Houthi-Saleh forces in a two-day span since the current conflict began in March 2015.[4]

AQAP militants attacked Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in southern and eastern Yemen. AQAP militants attacked Hadhrami Elite Forces west of al Mukalla city, southern Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on April 7. Suspected AQAP militants killed one member of the Emirati-backed al Hizam forces and wounded another in Lawder district, northern Abyan governorate on April 9. Suspected AQAP militants also attempted to kill the commander of the 137th Infantry Brigade as he traveled through Ahwar district, southern Abyan on April 9.[5]

AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on April 9. AQAP media reported that the IED killed ten al Houthi-Saleh troops in al Madhwaqain village, southern al Bayda. AQAP also released a three-minute video featuring the interrogation of two al Houthi-Saleh prisoners on April 8.[6]

Hadi government forces repelled an al Houthi-Saleh attack in Usaylan district, central Shabwah governorate, after intense fighting on April 9. Pro-Hadi forces reported four casualties and acknowledged a temporarily loss of territory to al Houthi-Saleh forces. These clashes indicate an escalation in hostilities on the Shabwah frontline.[7]

Hadi government-aligned popular resistance forces killed the al Houthi-Saleh Undersecretary of Information for the Press, Abdullah Yahya al Muwaid, during a clash in northern Mokha district, Taiz governorate, on April 9. Al Muwaid founded the pro-al Houthi radio station “Voice of the People” and reported for a number of pro-al Houthi sources.[8]

Al Houthi-Saleh shelling killed an Indian resident of Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia on April 8. The shelling injured three other Indian nationals, according to Saudi Civil Defense reporting. The Saudi-led coalition responded to the attacks with a series of airstrikes against al Houthi-Saleh targets near the Saudi-Yemeni border in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen.[9]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab conducted multiple mass casualty attacks in Mogadishu on April 9 and 10. Al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) targeting the convoy of General Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, the new commander of the Somali National Army (SNA), in Deynile district on April 9. The attack occurred immediately after General Jimale’s swearing-in ceremony at the Defense Ministry headquarters. The militants drove the VBIED into a civilian bus while attempting to target Jimale’s vehicle. The blast killed at least 15 people, including five soldiers. Al Shabaab militants also conducted a suicide vest (SVEST) attack inside a military training camp in Wadajir district on April 10. The blast killed at least seven soldiers and wounded 15 others. The suicide bomber dressed as a SNA soldier to gain access to the base. These attacks follow Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s declaration of war against al Shabaab on April 6. Al Shabaab has intensified its war against the Somali Federal Government since President Farmajo’s election in February 2017.[10] 

The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) killed a senior al Shabaab commander while repulsing an al Shabaab raid on Kuday village in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia, on April 8. KDF forces forced al Shabaab to retreat after killing three militants, including al Shabaab commander Bashe Nure Hassan. Somali military officials said that Hassan was a senior leader who led major attacks against SNA and KDF bases in Lower Jubba region. Kuday is located on a small island 80 miles southwest of Kismayo, the regional capital and a former al Shabaab stronghold.[11]

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo traveled to Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates (UAE), to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation with Emirati officials. Relations between the UAE and Somali Federal Government are strained by ongoing negotiations between the UAE and Somaliland, an autonomous state that seeks independence from Somalia. The UAE finalized an agreement to construct a military base in Berbera, Somaliland in exchange for $442 million in infrastructure spending in early 2017. The Somali Federal Government rejected the agreement and stated that the UAE violated Somalia’s sovereignty by negotiating directly with Somaliland.[12]

Somali pirates hijacked a Lebanese cargo vessel near Yemen’s Socotra Island on April 8. The pirates boarded the ship but were unable to take the crew hostage, because they locked themselves in a safe room. The pirates abandoned the ship on April 9 before international naval forces intervened. Somali pirates have hijacked five vessels in the past month. International maritime officials warned ships to avoid traversing the Socotra gap, a 130-mile stretch of ocean between northeastern Somalia and Socotra.[13]

[1] “Yemen .. killing two suspected high-ranking to "al Qaeda" in an airstrike,” Aden Lang, April 9, 2017,
[2] “Three arrested and accused of blowing up the oil pipeline in al Hudaydah’s Bajil district,” Sabanews, April 8, 2017,; “Video: The Houthis burn Yemenis in al Hudaydah,” Barakish, April 10, 2017,; and “Yemen’s Ma’rib oil pipeline blown up again,” MarineLink, February 25, 2017,
[3] “Video: Aden Security thwart a suicide bombing targeting a security point in Gold Mohur,” Aden Lang, April 9, 2017,
[4] “Rocket and artillery fire targets mercenaries in Mokha, Taiz,” Sabanews, April 9, 2017,; “Breaking: Patriot missile intercepts ballistic missile in the sky over Ma’rib,” Aden Lange, April 9, 2017,; and “The Houthis wage the deadliest rocket attacks on the city of Mokha, but alliance defenses intercept,” Aden Tomorrow, April 8, 2017,
[5] AQAP claims ambush targeting Hadhrami Elite Forces west of al Mukalla, Telegram, April 9, 2017; “A failed ambush targeting a military commander of Abyan,” Aden Lang, April 10, 2017,; and “Unidentified gunmen kill one soldier and injuring another in the city of Lawder, April 9, 2017,
[6] AQAP claims IED attack targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, Telegram, April 10, 2017; and “New video message from Anṣār al-Sharī’ah in the Arabian Peninsula: “Appeals of the Ḥūthī Prisoners to the Mujāhidīn of Anṣār al-Sharī’ah,” Jihadology, April 8, 2017,
[7] “Army and People’s Committees are clearing new sites of Shabwah’s Usaylan district,” Sabanews, April 9, 2017,; “Government troops regain wester Shabwah sites after Houthis take control for several hours,” al Masdar, April 9, 2017,; and “Four national army members martyred after fighting militias in Usaylan, Shabwah,” Aden Lange, April 9, 2017,
[8] “Radio Voice of the People mourns martyred founder Abdullah al Muwaid”, Sabanews, April 9, 2017,; and “Killed, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Information for the Houthis in Mokha,” Aden Tomorrow, April 9, 2017,
[9] “Indian national killed in Najran by projectiles fired from Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, April 8, 2017,; and “Houthi projectiles kill Indian residing in Saudi Arabia,” Aden Lange, April 8, 2017,
[10] Abdi Guled, “Somalia’s new army chief survives car bomb that kills 13,” Associated Press, April 10, 2017,; “At least 15 killed in car bomb explosion in Mogadishu,” Garowe Online, April 9, 2017,; “Suicide bomber targets military base in Mogadishu,” Garowe Online, April 10, 2017,; and Hussein Mohamed, “Suicide Bombing at Somalia Army Camp Kills at Least 7,” New York Times, April 10, 2017,
[11] Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Key al Shabaab Commander Killed in Somalia,” Voice of America, April 8, 2017,
[12] “President Farmajo arrives in UAE in a state visit,” Garowe Online, April 10, 2017,
[13] Associated Press, “Brief hijacking shows return of piracy to Somalia coast,” New York Daily News, April 9, 2017,
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