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: Yemeni forces arrest local al Qaeda leader in al Mukalla, eastern Hadramawt; reported U.S. airstrike kills five AQAP fighters and three civilians in Shabwah governorate; al Houthi movement commemorates anniversary of leader’s death; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to fire two ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia and Hadi government fighters; UNOCHA calls for action to prevent humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab conducts multiple ambushes targeting Somali security forces in Mogadishu area; al Shabaab militants ambush Puntland State military convoy in Galgala town, Bari region; U.S. Department of Defense warns of increased piracy off Somali coast

Yemen Security Brief

Yemeni counterterrorism forces arrested a local al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander named Ahmed Saeed Awad Barhamah in al Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on April 22. Saudi-led coalition helicopters assisted in the operation, in which counterterrorism forces arrested other AQAP fighters and confiscated their weapons and equipment.[1]

A reported U.S. airstrike killed five AQAP fighters and three civilians in Shabwah governorate in eastern Yemen on April 23. An airstrike struck an AQAP vehicle along the road in Dhala’a area, al Saeed district. The explosion also destroyed a car carrying civilians, according to Yemeni media.[2] 

Al Houthi supporters gathered to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the death of al Houthi movement patriarch Hussein Badr al Din al Houthi on April 23. Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi gave a televised speech to commemorate his father’s death. He denied that the al Houthi movement receives support from Iran in response to U.S. and Saudi statements.  Al Houthi said that the U.S. unjustly classified “freedom fighters” in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen as “rogues.” The Minister of State for Dialogue and Reconciliation of the al Houthi-Saleh Supreme Political Council, Ahmed al Qana’, reached out to the Southern Movement in a statement recognizing the hardships suffered by both southern Yemen and the al Houthi stronghold of Sa’ada since the unification of North and South Yemen in 1994.[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire a “Qaher-M2” ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in al Jawf governorate on April 23. This strike is not confirmed. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also claimed to fire a Qaher-M2 ballistic missile toward Alib military base in Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia, on April 22. Saudi-led coalition spokesman Major General Ahmed Asiri stated on April 22 that the missile did not reach Saudi Arabia but crashed in northern Yemen. The al Houthi-Saleh Defense Ministry unveiled the Qaher-M2, a modified surface-to-air missile with a 350 kg warhead and range of 400 km, on March 28.[4]

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) called on the international community to address a $1.8 billion funding gap for “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis” in Yemen. Nearly 19 million Yemenis required humanitarian aid and protection from conflict. UNOCHA warned that insufficient funding will lead to mass starvation, especially among malnourished children. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghir arrived in Geneva, Switzerland to attend a ministerial event hosted by UNOCHA, Sweden, and Switzerland that aims to increase funding for Yemen on April 25.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab conducted multiple attacks in Mogadishu and surrounding areas on April 23. Al Shabaab militants detonated two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting Somali security forces in the capital. The first IED targeted Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers at a checkpoint in the Wadajir district. The second IED targeted a convoy of Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officers on an industrial road north of Mogadishu. The attacks wounded at least two SNA soldiers and three NISA officers. Al Shabaab gunmen also ambushed a SNA convoy on the outskirts of Afgoi town, approximately 15 miles northwest of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab increased its operational tempo in the Mogadishu area after the Somali Federal Government and U.S. military signaled plans to expand military operations against the group earlier this month.[6] 

Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Puntland State military convoy with a roadside IED in Galgala town in Bari region, northeastern Somalia, on April 23. The blast killed six Puntland soldiers and wounded eight others. Galgala is located 25 miles southwest of the coastal town of Boosaaso in autonomous Puntland State. Al Shabaab is most active in southern and central Somalia but maintains a small operational presence in Puntland. Al Shabaab militants killed two Puntland security forces at a checkpoint in Boosaaso on February 1.[7]

The U.S. Department of Defense warned commercial and civilian vessels to use caution when navigating the waters off the coast of Somalia on April 23. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), addressed the Somali piracy threat during a press conference at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Secretary Mattis said that U.S. naval presence has not increased in the area despite six pirate attacks in the last eight weeks. General Waldhauser attributed the spike in attacks to worsening drought and famine conditions in Somalia. U.S. AFRICOM confirmed it is monitoring Somali piracy near the Gulf of Aden, through which about one-third of the world’s commercial ships navigate.[8]

[1] “Alliance and anti-terrorist units from the army arrest al Qaeda leaders in al Mukalla,” al Masdar, April 22, 2017,; “A number of al Qaeda elements arrested in Hadramawt,” Sabanew, April 22, 2017,
[2] “4 raids by American fighters kill three civilians and five al Qaeda in Shabwah,” al Masdar, April 23, 2017,; “U.S. airstrikes hit al Qaeda and leave some dead in Shabwah,” Aden Lange, April 23, 2017,
[3] “The 13th anniversary of the death of the martyr Hussein al Houthi in the capital of Sana’a,” Sabanews, April 23, 2017,; and “Revolution leader: the only option for our people is resistance and jihad,” Sabanews, April 23, 2017,
[4] “Qaher-M2 strikes mercenary gathering in al Jawf,” Sabanews, April 23, 2017,; “Army committees achieve victories in a number of fronts in the past few hours,” Sabanew, April 22, 2017,; and “Asiri: Qaher-M2 did not reach the Kingdom and did not kill Yemeni or Saudi military,” Akbar 24, April 22, 2017,
[5] “Yemen: We must act now to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” UNOCHA, April 24, 2017,; and “Prime Minister arrives in Geneva,” Sabanew, April 21, 2017,
[6] “Five soldiers wounded in Mogadishu roadside blasts,” Garowe Online, April 23, 2017,; and “Al Shabaab ambushes government military convoy near Afgoi,” Shabelle News, April 23, 2017,
[7] “Roadside bomb kills six soldiers in Somalia’s Puntland,” Al Jazeera, April 23, 2017,
[8] Helen Cooper, “Pentagon Warns Ships as Pirates Again Prowl Waters Off Somalia,” New York Times, April 23, 2017,
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