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: Al Houthi-aligned fighters condemn former Yemeni president Saleh; Saudi-led coalition airstrikes kill 35 civilians near Sana’a city, northern Yemen; suspected AQAP militants assassinate Hadi government officials in southern and eastern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab pays families of militants killed by U.S. airstrike; senior al Shabaab commander defects to Somali National Army; Somali security forces seize Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a stronghold in Galgudud region, central Somalia; AMISOM hosts counterinsurgency training for police in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Tensions remain high between former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the al Houthi bloc. Al Houthi-aligned tribal fighters called Saleh a traitor and vowed to seek revenge on August 22. Saleh criticized the al Houthi bloc for dominating governmental power and belittled al Houthi-aligned tribal fighters as “militias” during a speech on August 20. Saleh and al Houthi leaders exchanged criticisms in public addresses on August 19 and August 20. Supporters of former Yemeni president Saleh and his General People’s Congress party (GPC) are beginning to gather in Sabeen Square in Sana’a city in preparation for the 35th anniversary celebration of the founding of the GPC on August 24. Al Houthi officials called for a suspension of all political activity and mass-gatherings in a statement directed at Saleh’s GPC party.[1] 

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed approximately 35 civilians at a hotel near an al Houthi-Saleh checkpoint in Arhab district, Sana’a governorate in northern Yemen on August 23. The coalition is investigating the incident. A recent draft of the UN’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict stated that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have killed 502 Yemeni children in the past year.[2]

Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants assassinated the deputy governor of al Bayda governorate, Ahmed Salim al Assaily, in Umm Surrah area, Lawder district, northern Abyan governorate on August 23. Al Assaily was appointed by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Suspected AQAP militants also killed Hadi government-aligned militia commander Muhadar al ‘Abd in Lawder district, in a separate attack in Umm Surrah area. Umm Surrah area is located along a road that connects Lawder city to the Yemeni army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade camp in Jahhayn town, central Abyan governorate. Likely AQAP militants also assassinated Mohammed Ali al Hussam, a Hadi government officer in the 10th Brigade Intelligence Corps stationed in Hajjah governorate, while he was visiting his family in al Qatan district in Hadramawt governorate on August 22.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab distributed money to the families of suspected militants killed in the August 17 U.S. airstrikes in Jilib, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia. Al Shabaab accused the U.S. of killing civilians in the strikes. U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) reported that the airstrikes killed seven al Shabaab militants.[4]

An al Shabaab commander named Zakariye Ibrahim Abdullahi surrendered to the Somali National Army (SNA) in Hiraan region, central Somalia on August 23. The nineteen-year-old commander oversaw health service operations in Galgudud region, central Somalia. The defection comes ten days after Former al Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow’s (Abu Mansur) defection to the Somali Federal Government.[5] 

Somali National Army (SNA) and Galmudug Administration forces captured Mareer Gur in Galgudud region, central Somalia from Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a (AWSJ) on August 23. ASWJ is a Sufi militant group. AWSJ militants retaliated against Galmudug Administration forces in Dhusamareb town, Galgudud region on August 23. The clashes coincide with ongoing negotiations between ASWJ and the Galmudug administration on the potential inclusion of ASWJ representatives in the Galmudug government.[6]

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) began a ten-day counterinsurgency training program for Somali police officers in Mogadishu on August 22. The program seeks to enhance the Somali Police Force’s ability to protect vulnerable populations from crimes and terrorism. AMISOM efforts complement planned efforts by the Turkish and Egyptian government to enhance the capabilities of Somali security forces.[7]

[1] Maher Farrukh, Twitter, August 22, 2017,; Noah Browning, “Pro-Houthi fighters call powerful Yemen ally ‘evil,’ escalating feud,” Reuters, August 23, 2017,; “Deposed supporters remove all al Houthi paintings and slogans from Sabeen Square and its surroundings,” Aden Lang, August 23, 2017,; and “Masses flow to visit Sabeen Square a day before the festival, a challenge and hardship for al Houthi - pictures of today’s afternoon,” Barakish, August 23, 2017,
[2] Suaib Almosawa and Rod Nordland, “Saudi Coalition Airstrikes Near Yemen’s Capital Kills Civilians,” The New York Times, August 23, 2017,; “Air strikes near Houthi checkpoint kill 35 in Yemen,” Reuters, August 23, 2017,; and “Confidential UN Report Accuses Saudi Coalition of Killing Hundreds of Yemeni Kids,” August 16, 2017, Foreign Policy,
[3] “Al Qaeda militants assassinate a leader of the Popular Committees of Lawder district in Abyan,” Al Masdar Online, August 23, 2017,; and “The assassination of an army officer in al Qatan district in Hadramawt governorate,” Al Masdar Online, August 22, 2017,
[4] Al Shabaab claims to pay families of militants killed in U.S. strikes, Telegram, August 23, 2017; and AFRICOM, Twitter, August 17, 2017,
[5] Garowe Online, Twitter, August 23, 2017,; “Somalia: Al Shabaab ambushes Somali troops outside Mogadishu,” Radio Mogadishu, August 23, 2017,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, August 23, 2017,
[6] Morad News, Twitter, August 23, 2017,; “Exclusive: Peace articles greed upon between Galmudug and Ahlu Sunnah wal jama,” Goobjoog News, August 23, 2017,; and Garowe Online, Twitter, August 23, 2017,  
[7] “AMISOM Police holds training on counterinsurgency for Somali Police Force,” AMISOM, August 22, 2017,

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