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: Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces to expand operations in southern Yemen despite lack of funding; Saudi-led coalition forces fire on al Houthi-Saleh forces near al Hudaydah port; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missiles at Hadi government forces in Mokha city and northeastern al Jawf governorate

Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED outside Ministry of Internal Security in Mogadishu; AMISOM and Somali officials announce operation to clear major roads for humanitarian aid distribution; drought and disease kill 407 Somalis in two months; UN warns of resurgent piracy threat from Horn of Africa

Yemen Security Brief

Emirati-backed al Hizam forces are expanding their mission despite insufficient funding and poor coordination. The al Hizam brigade is tasked with security and counterterrorism in Lahij, Aden, and Abyan governorates and may expand its area of operations to southern Shabwah governorate, according to an al Hizam commander. The general supervisor of al Hizam forces in Abyan governorate, Ahmed Hamid al Marqashi, resigned on April 5 to protest local commanders’ refusal to coordinate and an absence of “credible leadership” within the Abyani al Hizam forces. Al Marqashi claimed that local commanders have inflated the number of troops on their financial statements. Troops from the Yemeni 119th infantry brigade in Abyan also protested six months of unpaid wages on April 4.[1] 

The Saudi-led coalition fired on al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Durayhimi district, northwestern al Hudaydah governorate on April 4. Saudi-led coalition Apache helicopters and warships bombed al Houthi-Saleh positions in an attempt to weaken resistance before an upcoming offensive on al Hudaydah governorate. Hadi government forces are currently fixed at a frontline approximately 50 miles to the south of al Durayhimi district.[2]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile at Hadi government-aligned forces stationed in Mokha city, western Taiz governorate, on April 4. Saudi-led coalition air defenses intercepted the missile over Mokha district. Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile toward Hadi government forces in al Hazm district, northeastern al Jawf governorate on April 4. The missile fell in an uninhabited area north of al Hazm city.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Security and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Mogadishu on April 5. The blast killed at least seven people and destroyed a nearby restaurant. Al Shabaab has conducted six VBIED attacks in Mogadishu in the past month in an effort to degrade security in the capital.[4] 

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Somali Federal Government (SFG), and Somali National Army (SNA) announced an operation to secure main supply routes to facilitate humanitarian aid delivery to rural areas of Somalia on April 3. African Union Special Representative Francisco Madeira said that one potential route could extend from Mogadishu to Baidoa in Bay region, located 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu. Colonel Mutacho Othieno, the AMISOM Chief Operations Officer, said the plan will also include operations to degrade al Shabaab’s control in rural areas. AMISOM will conduct clearing operations for up to 12 miles on each side of the road.[5]

Drought and cholera have killed at least 407 Somalis since February 2017, according to the Somali Ministry of Health. Director General Abdullahi Hashi Ali said that hospitals are treating more than 18,000 people for disease throughout the country. The most affected areas are in Bay, Bakool, Middle Shabelle, and Lower Shabelle regions. The UN estimates that more than six million people require humanitarian assistance in Somalia, totaling more than half of the total population of 11.2 million.[6]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned on April 4 that Somali pirates pose an increasing threat to commercial ships off the coast of Somalia. Somali pirates hijacked an oil tanker, a fishing vessel, and two cargo ships in the past month. The pirates are still holding the Indian crew of the Al Kaushar cargo ship in Hobyo town in Mudug region, central Somalia, after hijacking the vessel on April 3. The recent hijackings occurred off the coast of Puntland State, near the easternmost point of the Horn of Africa. The UNODC stated that the drought, illegal fishing disputes, and the declining presence of maritime law enforcement could explain the resurgence of piracy.[7]

[1] “The expansion of the security zone and the development of security points,” Aden Lang, April 5, 2017,; “To demand their salaries suspended 6 months ago .. officers and members of the brigade (119) infantry protest in Abyan,” Aden Lang, April 4, 2017,; and “General Supervisor of the al Hizam security in Abyan resign his post and explains the reasons,” Aden Lang, April 4, 2017,
[2] “Apaches attack sites comb the coast of al Hudaydah,” Barakish, April 5, 2017,; and “Alliance battleships bombard the coast of al Durayhimi district in al Hudaydah,” Yafa News, April 5, 2017,
[3] “Houthis fire ballistic missile on the city of Hazm in al Jawf governorate, no casualties,” al Masdar, April 4, 2017,
[4] “Missile launched on mercenary aggression camps east of Mokha in Taiz,” Sabanews, April 4, 2017,; “Arab air defenses intercept ballistic missile launched by the Houthis towards Mokha,” Aden Tomorrow, April 5, 2017,; and “Coalition bombs west of Taiz and intercept ballistic missile launched by the Houthis,” al Masdar, April 4, 2017,
 Abdi Guled, “Car Bomb Kills At Least 7 At Restaurant In Somalia’s Capital,” Associated Press, April 5, 2017,
[5] “AMISOM and Federal Government of Somalia to open up main supply routes to ease humanitarian access,” AMISOM, April 4, 2017,
[6] “Drought, cholera kills over 400 people in Somalia,” Shabelle News, April 5, 2017,
[7] “Recent attacks show pirates off Somalia’s coast still a potent threat,” UN News Centre, April 4, 2017,; and Jeffrey Gettleman, “Somali Pirates Attack, Raising Fears That a Menace Is Back,” New York Times,
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