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: British police to investigate alleged Saudi war crimes in Yemen; Saudi-led coalition destroys explosive boats near al Hudaydah port; AQAP runs public institutions in Taiz city; U.S. and coalition airstrikes target AQAP in southern and eastern Yemen; AQAP leader encourages Yemenis to fight U.S.; AQAP and ISIS claim attacks on al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; Hadi government forces advance toward Midi city in northwestern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants seize Elbur town in Galgudud region, central Somalia; al Shabaab militants conduct multiple attacks against AMISOM forces near Afgoi town, Lower Shabelle region; Somali security forces arrest 100 suspects in connection to Mogadishu assassinations

Yemen Security Brief

The British Counter Terrorism Command, the intelligence branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, will open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. British protesters confronted Saudi-led coalition spokesman Major General Ahmed Asiri in London and accused the coalition of war crimes on March 31. Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson to request an apology for the protests on April 1. Anti-al Houthi media reported that Johnson apologized and offered to open an investigation into the physical altercation between a British protester and Asiri. British Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Saudi Arabia on April 4 to promote a better trade relationship between the two countries.[1]

The Saudi-led coalition destroyed several al Houthi-Saleh explosive boats near al Hudaydah port in the Red Sea on April 1. The Emirati newspaper al Khaleej reported that the coalition destroyed the boats before they could reach their targets. Al Houthi-Saleh forces attacked a Saudi frigate with a remote-controlled explosive on January 30, killing two Saudi sailors.[2] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants are running the Republic Hospital, police stations, and other public institutions in Taiz city, according to a report from Middle East Eye. AQAP maintains a strong military presence in eastern Taiz city. Hadi government forces attempted to take control of the Republic Hospital on April 2 but fled after gunmen guarding the hospital open fired.[3]

Reported U.S. and coalition warplanes bombed AQAP militants in southern and eastern Yemen between March 31 and April 3. A reported U.S. airstrike targeted AQAP militants in Mudiyah district, northern Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on March 31 and April 1. Tribal leaders from Mudiyah denounced the airstrikes. They claimed that the strikes did not hit any AQAP militants and called on the Hadi government to take on responsibility for counterterrorism operations in the district. Preachers in Mudiyah mosques delivered anti-U.S. sermons on April 1. Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck an AQAP vehicle near Ataq city, central Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on April 2. Reported U.S. airstrikes targeted AQAP militants in al Mahfad district, northeastern Abyan governorate, and al Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate, on April 3.[4]

AQAP’s al Malahem Media Foundation released a speech from senior AQAP official Khaled Bin Omar Batarfi titled “The Obligation to Fight” on April 2. Batarfi stated that the U.S. is waging war on all Muslims and called on Yemenis to rally to AQAP’s cause. Batarfi reiterated previous AQAP statements on AQAP’s role in defending Sunnis in al Bayda governorate. He warned that al Houthi-Saleh forces could attack Ma’rib and Shabwah governorates if they seize al Bayda. Batarfi also called on preachers and supporters to incite jihad and expose the U.S. online.[5]

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda and AQAP militants participated in the fight against al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. AQAP militants claimed to kill al Houthi-Saleh forces in Zahir, southern al Bayda governorate on April 1. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces in western al Bayda governorate on April 2. AQAP and ISIS fight alongside tribal militias against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen.[6]

Forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi claimed to seize Midi Hospital and an al Houthi-Saleh government office in northwestern Hajjah governorate on April 2. The Yemeni Army’s Second Brigade advanced to just over one mile from Midi city, an al Houthi-Saleh stronghold near Yemen’s northwestern coast. Yemeni Armed Forces Spokesman Brigadier General Abdu Abdullah Majali stated on April 3 that Hadi government forces in Midi district captured al Houthi-Saleh fighters who received training from Lebanese and Iranian military advisors.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants seized Elbur town in Galgudud region in central Somalia on April 3. The militants seized the town after Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops withdrew beginning on March 27. Ethiopian AMISOM troops also withdrew from Elaheley and Dhusamareb towns in Galgudud region on March 27. Ethiopia withdrew at least 3,000 AMISOM troops from Bakool and Hiraan regions in south-central Somalia between September and November 2016 in response to domestic unrest. Al Shabaab seized at least six towns in the wake of Ethiopian withdrawal in 2016.[8] 

Al Shabaab conducted multiple attacks against AMISOM forces near Afgoi town in southern Somalia on April 1. Al Shabaab militants ambushed an AMISOM convoy with an improvised explosive device (IED) along the road between Awdheegle and Shalanbod, located 30 miles west of Afgoi. The attack killed four AMISOM soldiers. Al Shabaab militants ambushed another AMISOM convoy with an IED in the KM-50 area, located 15 miles southwest of Afgoi. The attack caused no casualties. Al Shabaab militants also fired mortar shells at an AMISOM base in Lego village in Bay region, located 60 miles northwest of Afgoi. The militants attempted to storm the base after firing mortar shells. AMISOM forces repulsed the attack and did not report any casualties. Al Shabaab frequently targets AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) forces in Afgoi town and surrounding areas in order to degrade Somali security capabilities outside Mogadishu.[9]

Somali security forces arrested at least 100 people in Hawl Wadag and Warta Nabada districts of Mogadishu on April 3. Somali police Captain Mohamed Hussein said the arrests were related to a wave of assassinations conducted by al Shabaab militants in recent months. Al Shabaab has killed dozens of pro-government clan elders, Somali intelligence officers, and government officials in the capital since January 2017.[10]

[1] Josh Halliday and Anushka Asthana, “Met police look at allegations of Saudi war crimes in Yemen,” The Guardian, April 2, 2017,; “Saudi Crown Prince: “The alliance in Yemen continues to deliver the facts to the world,” Aden Lange, April 2, 2017,; “Britain apologizes to Saudi Arabia after an attempt on Major General Asiri in London,” Aden Tomorrow, April 2, 2017,; and Jamie Merrill, “Theresa May to visit Saudi Arabia in post-Brexit trade push,” Middle East Eye, April 2, 2017,
[2] “Alliance frustrates the deployment of Houthi bomb boats in the Red Sea,” al Khaleej Newspaper, April 2, 2017,
[3] “'We have to obey them': Al-Qaeda increases its power in Yemen's Taiz city,” Middle East Eye, March 29, 2017,; and “Gunmen in charge of the Republic hospital in Taiz refuse to hand over protection of the hospital,” al Masdar, April 2, 2017,
[4] “Urgent: air raid in Abyan western Mudiyah,” Aden Tomorrow, March 31, 2017,; “Launched an airstrike by an unmanned drone over the city Mudiyah in Abyan,” Aden Lang, April 1, 2017,; “Abyan sheikhs in Mudiyah deliver an important statement on the US strikes,” Aden Lang, April 1, 2017,; “Urgent: Arab Coalition warplanes bombed al Qaeda positions in Shabwah,” Aden Lang, April 2, 2017; “Urgent: air strikes targeting the headquarters of a meeting of the leaders of al Qaeda north of Ataq,” Aden Lang, April 2, 2017,; Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, April 1, 2017,; “Urgent: US planes re-fly in Abyan, targeting the city Mahfad,” Aden Lang, April 3, 2017,; and “Our correspondent: US drone targeted elements of al Qaeda in Hadramawt,” Aden Lang, April 3, 2017,
[5] “AQAP official calls for steadfastness in Yemen, support from media workers in speech,” SITE, April 2, 2017,
[6] AQAP claims to kill al Houthi-Saleh forces in Zahir, southern al Bayda, Telegram, April 1, 2017; “# Yemen: 12 al Houthis killed in confrontations with the Islamic State fighters in the area Qayfa area, al Bayda,” Dawaal Haq, April 2, 2017; “Seven al Houthis killed in Popular Resistance ambush in the al Rawdah area of ​​al Bayda governorate,” al Masdar, April 3, 2017,
[7] “National Army controls the government buildings in Midi and starts combing for mines,” Aden Lange, April 2, 2017,; and “Houthi prisoners acknowledge receiving training at the hands of Iranian experts,” Aden Lange, April 3, 2017,
[8] “Al Shabaab seizes Somali town after AU troops’ pullout,” Garowe Online, April 3, 2017,; and Colin Lahiff, “Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals,” Critical Threats Project, November 4, 2016,
[9] “Roadside bomb targets AMISOM convoy near Afgoi town,” Garowe Online, April 1, 2017,; “Al Shabaab fires mortars at AMISOM base in Lego,” Shabelle News, April 2, 2017,
[10] “Nearly 100 suspects arrested in Mogadishu security sweep,” Garowe Online, April 3, 2017,
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