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: AQAP formally denies UN claim of  AQAP leader’s arrest; Saudi-led coalition claims to intercept al Houthi explosive-laden drones targeting Saudi Arabia; al Houthi and anti­–al Houthi forces clash in Ma’rib governorate

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks SNA base in Middle Shabelle region; SNA arrests al Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle region; SFG blames Jubbaland and Puntland State leaders for failed electoral negotiations in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) formally denied on April 8 the UN’s claim that security forces arrested AQAP’s leader Khaled Batarfi in eastern Yemen’s Mahrah governorate in October 2020. AQAP also denied the death of high-ranking AQAP official Sa’ad Atef al Awlaki. The group claimed the UN’s claim intended to affect AQAP fighters psychologically.[i]

The Saudi-led coalition claimed to intercept an al Houthi Qasef-2K drone targeting Jizan airport in southern Saudi Arabia’s Asir region on April 9. The coalition previously claimed to intercept an al Houthi explosive-laden drone targeting Khamis Mushait city in the kingdom’s Asir region on April 8.[ii]

Al Houthi and anti–al Houthi forces clashed along the al Kassara and al Masjah fronts in central Yemen’s Ma’rib governorate on April 8. Al Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi ordered al Houthi militants from Sa’ada, Amran, Dhamar, and Ibb governorates to reinforce fighters in Ma’rib governorate the same day.[iii]

Horn of Africa Security Brief:

Al Shabaab attacked a Somali National Army (SNA) base in the Burane area, less than two miles from Mahaday town in central Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region, on April 8. Militants detonated an improvised explosive device before exchanging gunfire with SNA troops. Al Shabaab attacked a Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base in Mahaday town on April 1.[iv]

The SNA arrested al Shabaab militants and seized their weapons in Mubarak village in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on April 8. Al Shabaab attacked two SNA bases in Lower Shabelle region on April 3.[v]

The Somali Minister of Information announced that the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and Somali member states failed to reach an agreement on how to proceed with federal presidential elections following a meeting in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on April 7. The minister blamed Jubbaland and Puntland State Presidents for inhibiting the process and claimed they “dishonored” the forum. The Puntland and Jubbaland State leaders insisted that they were unaware the negotiations failed and said they were committed to holding elections.[vi]

[i] “AQAP formally denies UN report on arrest of Batarfi, killing of high-ranking commander,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 8, 2021, available by subscription at; and Amelia Frederking and Lauren Detter, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – February 5, 20210,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 5, 2021,

[ii] “Yemeni forces conduct another retaliatory drone attack on Saudi airbases,” Tasnim News Agency, April 9, 2021,; and “Saudi Arabia intercepts an IED drone launched by the Houthis towards an air base in the south of the kingdom,” Al Jazeera, April 8, 2021,

[iii] “Violent battles, the army thwarts an attack by the Houthi militia on al Mashjah and al Kassara fronts west of Marib,” Al Mashhad al Yemeni, April 8, 2021; and “The Houthis are mobilizing more of their elements to continue the pressure on Marib,” Aden Lang, April 8, 2021,

[iv] Liibaan Jeexoow, “Deadly attack in Burane area,” Somalimemo, April 8, 2021,; “Al-Shabaab attack Mahaday district in Middle Shabelle region,” Hiiraan, April 8, 2021,; and Lauren Detter and Amelia Frederking, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – April 2, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, April 2, 2021,

[v] “Somali National Army conducts operation in Lower Shabelle region,” Radio Dalsan, April 9, 2021,; “Somali army launches operation on al-Shabab strongholds, Xinhua, April 9, 2021,; and Lauren Detter and Amelia Frederking, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – April 5, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, April 5, 2021,

[vi] “Somali leaders yet again fail to agree on terms of electoral talks,” Hiiraan, April 7, 2021,; “We’re not aware of failed poll talks, Deni, Madobe respond,” Goobjoog, April 8, 2021,; and “International community puts pressure on FGS and FMS leaders to resolve electoral dispute,” Mustaqbal Radio, April 8, 2021,

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