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: U.S. SOF support Yemeni counter-AQAP operation in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen; AQAP militants attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; Hadi government forces continue offensive in Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen; Hadi government forces seize junction in western Taiz governorate, western Yemen; Saudi-led coalition warplanes strike civilian areas in Sa’ada governorate, northwestern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab captures Lego town, Bay region, southern Somalia; Turkey to open training base near Mogadishu in September 2017; Ethiopia lifts state of emergency; al Shabaab claims attacks on AMISOM forces in Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. and Emirati Special Operations Forces supported Emirati-backed Yemeni forces in an operation to secure the major cities in Shabwah governorate in southern Yemen on August 3. A U.S. senior defense official confirmed that a U.S. enabling force supported the Emirati-backed soldiers as part of a multi-day “clearing operation” in Shabwah governorate against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).[1]

AQAP militants killed ten al Houthi-Saleh fighters during two attacks in al Zaharah area, northwestern al Bayda governorate on August 2. AQAP and militants Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda have clashed with al Houthi-Saleh forces at al Zaharah several times in the past month.[2] 

Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi are attempting to consolidate control over northwestern Hajjah governorate in northwestern Yemen. Coalition-backed Hadi government forces advanced south from their base in Midi city and seized supply routes leading into southern Midi district on August 3. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to killed several Sudanese coalition troops participating in the offensive on August 4. Hadi government forces seized Midi city from al Houthi-Saleh forces on July 23, but the district remains contested. The Saudi-led coalition and Hadi government seek to control Midi district to protect Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border and to advance shaping operations to surround Sana’a city.[3]

Hadi government-aligned forces seized the primary junction in western Taiz governorate in western Yemen from al Houthi-Saleh forces on August 3. The junction is located east of Camp Khalid ibn al Walid in eastern Mokha district, which Hadi government forces seized on July 27. The intersection links Mokha port with the roadways leading to Taiz city and al Hudaydah port, which Hadi government forces aim to seize from al Houthi-Saleh forces.[4]

Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck civilian areas in Sa’ada governorate in northwestern Yemen on August 4. Coalition airstrikes killed nine civilians in Safra district, central Sa’ada governorate and three civilians in Razih district in western Sa’ada governorate near the Yemeni-Saudi border, according to al Houthi-Saleh news reports.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab recaptured Lego town in Bay region, southern Somalia on August 4, 2017. Lego town is strategically located along a major highway that connects Mogadishu to Gedo region, in southwestern Somalia. Al Shabaab’s control of the town obstructs Somali security forces’ freedom of movement between Mogadishu and Baidoa, the capital of Bay region. Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) suddenly withdrew from Lego town on August 3 without notifying Somali officials. AMISOM’s base in Lego town served as a launch pad for peacekeeping operations in Lower Shabelle and Bay region.[6]

Turkey will open a military training base in Mogadishu in September 2017, according to a statement by Somalia’s Defense Minister on August 3. Turkey will deploy 200 soldiers to the base, which will be used to train the Somali National Army (SNA). Turkey began construction on the facility in 2015.[7]

Ethiopia lifted its state of emergency on August 4. The Ethiopian government imposed the state of emergency in October 2016 after violent anti-government protests engulfed the country. The unrest protests prompted the Ethiopian government to withdraw some of its troops from Somalia.[8] 

Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for two attacks on AMISOM forces on August 3. Al Shabaab claimed to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Ethiopian AMISOM convoy in Wajid, Bakool region, central Somalia. Al Shabaab also attacked Burundian AMISOM troops in Arbacow village, outside Mogadishu, according to pro-al Shabaab social media accounts.[9]

[1] “U.S.-backed Yemeni troops push al Qaeda from southern province,” Reuters, August 4, 2017,; “U.S.-backed Yemeni troops attack al Qaeda in southern state,” Reuters, August 3, 2017,; “Yemeni Special Forces, backed by UAE, US forces, launch assault on al Qaeda in Shabwah,” Emirati News Agency, August 3, 2017,; and “US Special Ops help UAE forces in Yemen anti-terror operation,” Fox News, August 3, 2017,     
[2] AQAP claims attack on al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Zaharah, Telegram, August 3, 2017.
[3] “The army controls the last supply routes of the coupists in Midi,” Aden Lange, August 4, 2017,; “The destruction of four mechanisms of the mercenaries and the death and wounding of dozens, including Sudanese in Midi,” Sabanews, August 4, 2017,; and “Yemen: Army and resistance have control over Midi city,” Al Arabiya, July 23, 2017,
[4] “The National Army controls the junction of the camp and kills eight militia members,” Sabanew, August 3, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review," AEI's Critical Threats Project, July 27, 2017,   
[5] “22 citizens killed or wounded in two coalition airstrikes in Sa’ada,” Sabanews, August 4, 2017,
[6] Harun Maruf, Twitter, August 4, 2017,
[7] Mohammed Dhaysane, “Turkey set to open largest military camp in Somalia,” Anadolu Agency, August 4, 2017,
[8] “Ethiopia lifts state of emergency imposed 10 months ago,” Xinhua, August 4, 2017,; and Colin Lahif, “Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, November 4, 2017,
[9] Al Shabaab claims attack on Ethiopian AMISOM in Bakool, Telegram, August 3, 2017; and Al Shabaab claims attack on Burundian AMISOM near Mogadishu, Telegram, August 3, 2017.

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