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 magazine instructs followers to derail trains; reported U.S. airstrike targets AQAP militants in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces attack Emirati ship in Mokha port, Taiz governorate, western Yemen; UN Special Envoy for Yemen holds meetings in Iran; ISIS and AQAP militants attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; Saudi-led coalition helicopter crashes in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen; Yemeni political parties in Cairo form new coalition

Horn of Africa: Former al Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow defects to Somali Federal Government; Kenya re-elects President Uhuru Kenyatta; al Shabaab detonates car bomb in Mogadishu; Puntland deploys troops to northern Somalia to prevent voting in Somaliland elections

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) encouraged followers to derail trains in the West in the 17th edition of its English-language magazine, Inspire, on August 13. The magazine featured an article by AQAP’s chief bombmaker, Ibrahim al Asiri, explaining the economic and psychological impact of targeting transportation infrastructure. The magazine provides instructions for building a train derailment device, recommends types of trains to target, and suggests locations for attacks in the U.S., UK, and France. The New York City Police Department’s counterterrorism unit stated that it was aware of the train derailment threat from AQAP before the release of Inspire. The magazine also included an article from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Abdelmalek Droukdel on the resurgence of white nationalism in the West.[1]

A reported U.S. airstrike targeted two suspected AQAP militants in al Maroun area, Khabr al Muraqisha area in southern Abyan governorate on August 13. A U.S. airstrike last targeted AQAP militants in Abyan governorate on July 1. AQAP militants withdrew into Abyan governorate following an American- and Emirati-backed counterterrorism operation in Shabwah governorate on August 3.[2] 

Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted a remote-controlled explosive boat attack on an Emirati warship in the Red Sea port of Mokha in Taiz governorate, western Yemen on August 12. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to destroy the Emirati vessel. Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al Maliki stated that coalition forces intercepted the remote-controlled explosive boat before it could hit its target. Al Houthi-Saleh forces frequently target Saudi-led coalition ships off of Yemen’s western coast, threatening freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Bab al Mandab Strait.[3]

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed traveled to Tehran, Iran to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari on August 12. Ould Cheikh Ahmed called on Iran to facilitate UN efforts to reach a political resolution to the Yemeni crisis. An al Houthi spokesman condemned the meeting and reiterated the al Houthi bloc’s opposition to Ould Cheikh Ahmed, whom it views as biased toward Saudi Arabia.[4]

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda and AQAP continued an offensive on al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Zaharah area, northwestern al Bayda, central Yemen. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to shell al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Zaharah on August 12 and released a photoset showing an attack on al Houthi-Saleh forces on August 13. AQAP militants captured an al Houthi-Saleh fighter in al Zaharah on August 12. ISIS and AQAP militants are fighting alongside local tribes against the al Houthi-Saleh faction in al Bayda.[5]

An Emirati helicopter crashed in Rawdah district, Shabwah governorate in southern Yemen, killing and wounding eight Emirati soldiers on August 11. Local sources reported that the crash injured Zayed bin Hamdan bin Zayed al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family. Emirati- and American-backed Yemeni forces deployed to Shabwah governorate on August 3 to expel AQAP militants and secure major population centers. AQAP-affiliated social media channels celebrated the crash, but AQAP has not claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter.[6]

Five Yemeni political parties based in Cairo, Egypt announced the formation of a new political coalition on August 13. The coalition consists of members from the Socialist Party, the Nasserite Organization, the Justice and Building Party, the Union of Popular Forces, and the Unionist Rally Party. The coalition seeks to rally support behind the internationally recognized government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Secretary-General of the Unionist Rally Party denied his party’s participation in the new political coalition.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Former al Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur) defected to the Somali Federal Government on August 13. Robow is a founding member of al Shabaab who left the group in 2013 due to disagreements with the group’s leadership. Robow is the highest-ranking al Shabaab member to defect from the group. Al Shabaab militants attempted to capture Robow during two raids on his compound in Abal village outside of Hudur, Bakool region, central Somalia on August 9 and 11. Robow commands a militia of nearly 400 men comprised of members of his clan and al Shabaab deserters, who may also defect to the Somali government.[8] 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta defeated former prime minister Raila Odinga in presidential elections on August 8. President Kenyatta received 54 percent of the vote to Odinga’s 45 percent. Protests erupted throughout Kenya following the announcement of President Kenyatta’s re-election on August 11. Kenyan police killed 24 protesters nationwide after protests escalated between August 11 and 12. Raila Odinga is attempting to contest the election results, which international observers from the U.S., European Union, and African Union have verified.[9]

Al Shabaab militants detonated a car bomb targeting Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu on August 14. Militants placed an improvised explosive device (IED) under the car seat of a taxi driver and detonated the device when the driver arrived at Jazeera Palace Hotel. Jazeera Palace Hotel hosts several international diplomatic mission offices.[10]

The Puntland administration deployed troops to Sool and Sanaag regions in northern Somalia on August 12 to prevent the Somaliland government from distributing ballot boxes and ID cards to voters. Puntland and Somaliland both claim ownership of Sool and Sanaag regions. Somaliland will hold general elections in November 2017.[11]

[1] “AQAP dedicates Inspire 17 to train derailment - economic impact, derail tool construction, U.S. passenger train routes” SITE, August 13, 2017, available by subscription at; and NYPDCT, Twitter, August 13, 2017,
[2] “Two people are believed to be linked to al Qaeda after a US airstrike in Abyan governorate,” Al Masdar Online, August 13, 2017,; “Two elements of al Qaeda were killed by a U.S. raid in Abyan,” Barakish, August 13, 2017,; and “Drone Launches Several Strikes on Armed Militants in Abyan,” Al Masdar Online, July 2, 2017,
[3] “Yemen’s Houthis target coalition warship, agency reports,” Reuters, August 12, 2017,; “Naval forces target UAE warship off Mokha,” Sabanews, August 13, 2017,; and “The Yemeni naval forces confirm the destruction of the full-fledged warship and threaten the forces of aggression more,” Al Masirah, August 13, 2017,
[4] “Iran FM, UN envoy urged end to humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Press TV, August 12, 2017,; and “Leader of the Houthi rebel group: Ould Cheikh does not carry any project,” Aden Lange, August 13, 2017,
[5] ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed its militants shelled al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Zaharah, al Bayda and released a photoset of its militants attacking al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Zaharah with various weapons, Telegram, August 12-13, 2017; and AQAP claimed its militants captured an al Houthi-Saleh fighter in al Zahrah, al Bayda, Telegram, August 12, 2017.
[6] “Armed forces mourn 4 of their soldiers who were killed while carrying out their normal duties in Shabwah governorate,” Emirati News Agency, August 11, 2017,; “News confirm the injury of Zayed bin Hamdan the son in law of the Crown Prince of the UAE in the crash of the helicopter in Shabwah,” Al Masdar Online, August 13, 2017,; and Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, August 11, 2017,    
[7] “5 Yemeni parties announce from Cairo the formation of a new political coalition,” Aden Tomorrow, August 13, 2017,; and “Unionist Rally denies its relationship with the political coalition declared by the Yemeni parties in Cairo,” Al Masdar Online, August 14, 2017,    
[8] Harun Maruf, “Somali Insurgent Defects,” Voice of America, August 13, 2017,; and C. Anzalone, Twitter, August 13, 2017,
[9] “World turns spotlight on Raila Odinga after Kenya elections,” Daily Nation, August 14, 2017,; and Briana Duggan, Faith Karimi and Chandrika Narayan, “24 killed in post-election violence in Kenya, rights group says,” CNN, August 13, 2017,
[10] Garowe Online, Twitter, August 14, 2017,
[11] “Puntland warns Somaliland over movement in Sool and Sanaag,” Puntland Mirror, August 12, 2017,

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