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.-supported Yemeni forces secure oil infrastructure in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh delegation negotiates in Oman; EU delegation travels to Sana’a; AQAP militants attack security forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missiles at Saudi-led coalition forces; UN condemns killing of Yemeni civilians in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab encourages Kenyan military withdrawal ahead of Kenya’s general elections; al Shabaab attacks civilians and security forces Lamu County, eastern Kenya; Ethiopia to deploy troops to recapture Lego town, Bay region, southern Somalia; al Shabaab attacks civilians and politicians in Mogadishu; bodyguards open fire on protesters in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

The ongoing U.S.-backed Yemeni counterterrorism operation in Shabwah governorate aims to secure oil and gas facilities, according to a Yemeni government official. Emirati-backed Shabwani and Hadhrami Elite Forces deployed to Duhar district and Jardan district, in northern Shabwah, as well as several cities in central and southern Shabwah between August 2 and 4. U.S. and Emirati Special Operations Forces are supporting the operation. Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants have frequently targeted oil pipelines in Shabwah in the past few months to disrupt the economy and delegitimize the Yemeni government. Locals reported that 45 vehicles carrying AQAP militants retreated from Shabwah into the mountains of northeastern Abyan governorate in response to the U.S.- and Emirati-backed operations.[1]    

Representatives of the al Houthi-Saleh faction reportedly engaged in political negotiations in Muscat, Oman on August 6. Oman has acted as a mediator between the belligerents in Yemen’s civil war. The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, held meetings in Muscat beginning on August 2. He left Oman on August 6 to meet with Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi and Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan. Ould Cheikh Ahmed will meet with Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on August 8.[2]

The head of the European Union delegation to Yemen, Ambassador Antonia Calvo Puerta, arrived in Sana’a city on August 6 to discuss the UN’s plan to transfer control of al Hudaydah port from the al Houthi-Saleh faction to a multi-party Yemeni management body. Ambassador Puerta met with al Houthi-Saleh Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah on August 7 to discuss the EU’s role in potential ceasefire negotiations. Ambassador Puerta will also meet with representatives from the al Houthi movement and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s supporters, as well as conduct field visits to assess the Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.[3]

AQAP militants attacked Yemeni government and Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on August 6 and 7. AQAP militants shelled the 103rd Infantry Brigade camp in Jahhayn town, southern Lawder district, northern Abyan on August 6 and the Yemeni Coast Guard camp near Shaqra city, southern Abyan on August 7. Yemeni army and Emirati-backed forces deployed to Lawder district and Shaqra city on July 30 as part of an effort to secure the governorate. Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces and the Yemeni Army’s 111th Infantry Brigade will deploy to Ahwar city in southeastern Abyan to help secure Yemen’s southern coast.[4] 

Al Houthi-Saleh forces targeted Saudi-led coalition and Hadi government forces with multiple ballistic missiles. Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a “Zilzal-2” ballistic missile at Hadi government-aligned forces in northern Mokha district, western Taiz governorate on August 7. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also claimed to fire “Zilzal-1” ballistic missiles into Jazan region, southwestern Saudi Arabia on August 7 and Matun district, southwestern al Jawf governorate on August 5. The al Houthi-Saleh faction likely relies on technical support from Iran or its proxies to enhance its ballistic missile capabilities.[5]

UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick condemned a Saudi-led coalition airstrike that killed 12 civilians in Sa’ada district in northwestern Yemen on August 4. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is investigating the incident. McGoldrick denounced the belligerents in the Yemeni conflict for disregarding civilian safety.[6] 

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab released two propaganda videos threatening Kenyan citizens before the country’s August 8 general elections. Al Shabaab released a video featuring a Kenyan prisoner of war (POW) who urges Kenyans to elect a president who will withdraw military forces from Somalia. Al Shabaab executed the POW at the end of video, titled “The Bitter Truth: Final Message of El-Adde POW Betrayed by His Country.” The group also released a propaganda video featuring a Canadian foreign fighter who urges Kenyan Muslims to conduct attacks against security forces and civilians in Kenya. The foreign fighter also calls on Kenya to withdraw its military forces from Somalia. This video is the sixth in al Shabaab’s “Inspire the Believers” video series, which features deceased foreign fighters.[7]

Al Shabaab claimed to temporarily seize Damsi town in Lamu County, eastern Kenya on August 6 after forcing Kenyan troops to withdraw from a nearby base. Al Shabaab militants burned Kenyan government buildings and destroyed Safaricom Communications towers during the attack, according to pro-al Shabaab social media accounts. Kenyan media confirmed the attack on a Safaricom tower, which caused a blackout in Lamu County. Kenyan security forces have not acknowledged the attack. Al Shabaab militants also continued a series of low-level attacks on civilian and security targets near Witu in Lamu County with an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a civilian vehicle and a direct fire attack on security forces in Nyongoro area on August 7.[8]

Ethiopia announced that it will deploy troops to retake Lego town, Bay region, southern Somalia from al Shabaab militants. Al Shabaab seized Lego town after Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers withdrew on August 3. Al Shabaab’s presence in Lego town disrupts ground lines of communication between Mogadishu and Baidoa in Bay region. Forty Ethiopian AMISOM troops arrived in Baidoa on August 5 in preparation for the Lego operation. Al Shabaab militants detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting the AMISOM convoys traveling to Baidoa but failed to inflict casualties.[9] 

Al Shabaab militants conducted two attacks targeting officials and civilians in Mogadishu on August 4, continuing a campaign to undermine the Somali Federal Government’s control of the capital. Militants assassinated Galgudud Governor Mohamed Ali Elmi and his brother in Arafat, Mogadishu on August 4. Al Shabaab also detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) along a busy highway in Mogadishu on August 4, killing three civilians and wounding six others.[10]

Two bodyguards protecting a Somali parliamentarian opened fire on protesters in Mogadishu, Somalia on August 7. Mogadishu Stabilization Force officers disarmed and arrested the bodyguards after the incident. Protesters also captured and destroyed an AMISOM vehicle at KM4 junction in the capital. Rickshaw drivers in Mogadishu hosted a rally to protest security roadblocks.[11]

[1] Saeed al Batati and Eric Schmitt, “Thousands of Yemeni Forces Target Qaeda Stronghold,” The New York Times, August 6, 2017,; “Detonation of oil pipeline in Khamer area of Shabwah,” Al Mashhad, August 2, 2017,; “Residents: al Qaeda operatives flee to areas around Mahfid and Mudia from Shabwah,” Aden Tomorrow, August 5, 2017,; and “Al-Qaeda ousted from oil-rich Yemen province: army,” The Daily Star, August 7, 2017,   
[2] “Houthi delegation in Muscat for negotiations,” Barakish, August 6, 2017,; “UN envoy hints Oman could hold Yemen peace talks,” Al Arabiya, August 7, 2017,; and “Ould Cheikh arrives in Jordan in the second stop of his new regional tour and meets Makhlafi,” Al Masdar Online, August 7, 2017,
[3] “EU envoy in Yemen for talks over UN plan to run Key port,” The Washington Post, August 6,; “Head of the European Union delegation to Yemen arrives in Sana’a on the first visit since the outbreak of the war, Al Masdar Online, August 6, 2017,; “The Foreign Minister meets the head of the European Union mission and confirms that what is happening in Yemen is a war of aggression,” Sabanews, August 7, 2017,; and “Houthi delegation in Muscat for negotiations,” Barakish, August 6, 2017,
[4] AQAP militants attack 103rd Brigade camp, Telegram, August 6, 2017; AQAP militants target Yemeni Coast Guard, Telegram, August 7, 2017; and “Al Hizam in Abyan preparing to deploy to Ahwar with support of 111th Brigade,” Hadramawt Net, August 6, 2017,  
[5] “Zilzal-1 ballistic missile fired at mercenary aggressors in al Matun district in al Jawf,” Sabanews, August 5, 2017,; “Al Houthis launch a ballistic missile on al Matun district western al Jawf governorate,” Al Masdar Online, August 6, 2017,; “Zilzal-2 fired towards a group of mercenary aggressors north of Mokha district in Taiz governorate,” Sabanews, August 7, 2017,; “The launch of a “Zilzal-1” missile at the al Mizab point in Jizan,” Sabanews, August 7, 2017,; and “Warning Update: Iran’s Hybrid Warfare in Yemen,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, March 26, 2017,         
[6] “Statement by the Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, on reported attacks on civilians in Sa’ada Governorate,” Relief Web, August 5, 2017, "; and “22 citizens killed or wounded in two coalition airstrikes in Sa’ada,” Sabanews, August 4, 2017,
[7] “Shabaab Executes Kenyan POW in Video Intended to Influence Kenyan General Election,” SITE Intelligence Group, August 5, 2017, available by subscription at; and “Canadian Shabaab Fighter Threatens Kenyan Civilians in Posthumous Video,” SITE Intelligence Group, August 6, 2017, available by subscription at
[8] Al Shabaab claims attack on Damsi town, Lamu County, Telegram, August 7, 2017; NationBreakingNews, Twitter, August 8, 2017,; and Kalume Kazungu, “2 hurt in Lamu landmine attack,” Daily Nation, August 7, 2017,
[9] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Ethiopia to help retake strategic Somali town of Leego from Al-Shabaab,” Africa News, August 8, 2017,
[10] Harun Maruf and Abdulaziz Osman, “Al-Shabab Militants Kill Provincial Governor in Mogadishu,” Voice of America, August 4, 2017,
[11] Today from Somalia; Twitter, August 7, 2017,; Garowe Online, Twitter, August 7, 2017,; Hussein Mohamed, Twitter, August 7, 2017,; and “Somali MP security guards kill civilians in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, August 7, 2017,

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