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. airstrikes kill five AQAP militants in central Yemen; U.S. Secretary of Defense visits Saudi Arabia; al Houthi-Saleh forces shell southern Saudi Arabia; Saudi helicopter crashes in central Ma’rib governorate

Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants detonate IED targeting humanitarian convoy near Mogadishu; Somali Federal Government establishes new national security and humanitarian frameworks

Yemen Security Brief

Reported U.S. airstrikes killed five al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in central Yemen on April 18. One strike killed three suspected AQAP militants on the road between Shabwan and Husun al Jalal areas northwest of Ma’rib city on April 18. Another strike killed two suspected AQAP militants driving in Hawtah al Faqiha Ali area, Mayfa’a district, central Shabwah governorate on April 18.[1] 

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Saudi Arabia on April 18. Secretary Mattis emphasized the Trump administration’s commitment to increasing support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Mattis also stated that the war in Yemen requires a UN-brokered political solution, citing civilian casualties in Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia. Al Houthi-Saleh Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf welcomed Mattis’s comments but expressed concern that the statements were a “political maneuver.”[2]

A Saudi Royal Air Force Black Hawk helicopter crashed within three miles of Tadawin camp in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen on April 18. The crash killed four officers and eight non-commissioned officers. Sources in the Yemeni Ministry of Defense claimed that Saudi-led coalition air defense systems shot the helicopter down due to a malfunction. The Saudi-led coalition is still investigating the incident. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, and Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghir expressed their condolences to Saudi Arabia.[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired rockets into the city of Najran in southern Saudi Arabia on April 18. A Saudi Civil Defense spokesman stated that the attack injured five civilians.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a convoy of humanitarian and government officials near Mogadishu on April 19. The militants detonated the roadside IED in the Garasbaley area west of the capital. The blast destroyed the vehicle of Abdiqadir Dalxa, the head of aid coordination for the Banadir regional administration. The convoy also included officials from the Emirati Red Crescent organization and members of Somalia’s national drought response committee. Reports did not provide casualty numbers. Al Shabaab rejects the presence of international aid organizations in Somalia. The group detonated an IED targeting a convoy of UN World Food Programme workers near Mogadishu on April 16.[5] 

The Somali Federal Government (SFG) announced new frameworks for addressing security and humanitarian concerns in the country on April 16 and 19. The SFG crafted recommendations for a national security architecture during a meeting of Somali political and military leaders in Mogadishu on April 16. The recommendations provide a new structure for the Somali National Army (SNA), to include the ground forces, an air force, and a navy. The recommendations require the SNA to number at least 18,000 soldiers by the end of 2017. The SFG created a new National Security Council, headed by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, to implement the recommendations. The SFG also opened the new National Humanitarian Coordination Centre in Mogadishu on April 19. The Centre will coordinate humanitarian efforts by state and non-state agencies to ensure effective aid response.[6] 

[1] “U.S. drone bombs a car in Ma’rib, killing three suspected AQAP members,” al Masdar, April 18, 2017,; “Five AQAP members killed in two air raids in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, April 19, 2017,;  “Two AQAP elements killed in a U.S. raid in Shabwah,” Barakish, April 18, 2017,; and “Breaking: U.S. drone aircraft target elements of AQAP in Shabwah,” Aden Lange, April 18, 2017,
[2] “Yemen war needs a political solution: U.S. Defense Secretary,” Reuters, April 18, 2017,; and “Foreign Minister welcomes statements from the U.S. Secretary of Defense and calls on the world to contribute to peace,” Press 24, April 19, 2017,
[3] “Saudi Black Hawk carrying senior officers falls in Ma’rib,” al Masirah, April 18, 2017,; “12 officers martyred in the fall of a Saudi helicopter in Ma’rib,” Sabanew, April 18, 2017,; “Yemeni forces show that the Saudi helicopter was shot down by coalition defenses systems by mistake,” al Masdar, April 18, 2017,; “President offers his condolences to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques regarding the martyrs of the helicopter crash,” Sabanew,  April 18, 2017,; Vice President gives condolences in the death of four officers and eight non-commissioned officers, heroes of the Saudi forces,” Sabanew, April 18, 2017,; and “Prime Minister offers his condolences to the martyrs of the Saudi helicopter crash in Ma’rib,” Sabanew, April 18, 2017,
[4] “Five Saudi civilians injured in bombing attack by al Houthi forces in the city of Najran,” al Masdar, April 18, 2017,
[5] “Landmine explosion targets humanitarian, government officials,” Garowe Online, April 19, 2017,
[6] “Government to harmonise humanitarian responses in the country,” Goobjoog News, April 19, 2017,; “International community hails result of Somali leaders meeting,” Shabelle News, April 18, 2017,; and Harun Maruf, Full details on Somalia’s new National Security Architecture, Twitter, April 18, 2017,
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