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-Saleh faction expresses willingness to negotiate without UN envoy; Yemeni security forces mobilize in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; AQAP emphasizes strength in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen; clashes intensify in Taiz governorate, western Yemen; UN and aid organizations call for reopening of Sana’a airport; gunmen attempt to assassinate relative of President Hadi in Aden city

Horn of Africa: Riots erupt in western Kenya after presidential candidate Raila Odinga challenges election results; al Shabaab attacks former deputy leader Mukhtar Robow in Abal village, Bakool region, central Somalia; al Shabaab assassinates police commander in Boosaaso, Bari region, northern Somalia; Somali security forces interdict al Shabaab SVBIED attack in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Saleh Ali al Samad, head of the al Houthi-Saleh Supreme Political Council, stated that the al Houthi-Saleh faction is willing to engage in peace talks that are not brokered by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on August 8. Al Samad delivered the remarks in a meeting with the head of the EU delegation to Yemen, Antonia Calvo Puerta. The al Houthi bloc views Ould Cheikh Ahmed as biased toward Saudi Arabia. Al Samad praised the European Union for its diplomatic efforts to end the Yemeni conflict. Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh also met with Calvo Puerta and affirmed his commitment to peaceful initiatives.[1]

Yemeni security forces deployed to southern Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on August 9 as part of an ongoing effort to expel al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from the governorate. Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces deployed to Ahwar district in southeastern Abyan governorate. The Yemeni army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade will transfer from its camp in Jahhayn town, southern Lawder district to join the 115th Infantry Brigade in Lawder city following an August 8 AQAP attack on the camp. Security forces withdrew from Abyan governorate in early 2017, citing a high rate of AQAP attacks and minimal support from the government.[2]

AQAP distributed a statement to reassure the local population of its strength in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen on August 9. AQAP militants withdrew from Shabwah to neighboring Abyan governorate in response to Yemeni security operations supported by U.S. and Emirati Special Operations Forces. AQAP promised to continue attacks on Emirati-backed security forces and praised tribes loyal to its cause.[3] 

Clashes between forces aligned with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and al Houthi-Saleh fighters intensified in Taiz governorate on August 9. Hadi government-aligned forces repelled an al Houthi-Saleh assault aiming to retake Camp Khalid ibn al Walid in western Taiz governorate. Hadi government forces seized the camp on July 27. Hadi government forces also clashed with al Houthi-Saleh fighters in a separate offensive north of Camp Khalid near Maqbanah district in northwestern Taiz governorate. Al Houthi-Saleh forces and Hadi-government aligned soldiers also exchanged artillery fire in Madarat district in central Taiz governorate.[4]

Fifteen aid organizations called for all belligerents in Yemen to lift restrictions on aid deliveries to the Sana’a International Airport on August 9. UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick also called for the reopening of the airport to alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis on August 8. The Saudi-led coalition controls Yemen’s airspace and has blockaded most commercial shipments to the airport since August 2016. Restrictions on the flow of aid are exacerbating malnutrition and cholera in Yemen. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cholera has infected over 463,000 Yemenis and caused 1,940 deaths since late April.[5]  

Unknown gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying Mohammed Nasser Saeed al Marmi, a relative of President Hadi and the leader of his presidential protection forces, in Sheikh Othman district in Aden city on August 9. Al Marmi is alive but in critical condition. Militants frequently target security forces in Sheikh Othman district.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga challenged the results of Kenya’s August 8 general elections, instigating ethnic tensions and deadly clashes throughout western Kenya. Odinga called the election results fraudulent after polls showed him trailing incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta by a wide margin. Odinga’s supporters escalated protests and clashed with Kenyan police in western Kenya. Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) party plans to pursue legal action against Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in an attempt to prevent the official announcement of President Kenyatta’s victory. Kenya’s constitution grants the IEBC seven days to declare election results.  President Uhuru Kenyatta is leading Odinga by 1.4 million votes with nearly 96 percent of votes tallied.[7]

Al Shabaab militants seized the compound of the group’s former Deputy Leader, Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur), in Abal village, Bakool region, southern Somalia on August 9. Al Shabaab is attempting to prevent Robow’s defection to the Somali Federal Government. Militants seized a battle wagon and several motorcycles from Robow’s militia after capturing the Abal village compound. Robow retreated to a nearby forest, where his militia repelled a second al Shabaab attack. Southwest State security officials are preparing to deploy troops to reinforce Robow’s militia against future attacks.[8]  

Al Shabaab assassinated the deputy commander of Boosaaso’s Central Police Station in Boosaaso city, Bari region, northern Somalia on August 9. The assassination marks a continuation of the group’s assassination campaign throughout Somalia. Al Shabaab assassinated Galgudud Governor Mohamed Ali Elmi in Mogadishu on August 4. Puntland Security Forces are also investigating a potential al Shabaab connection to the assassination of Bari region governor Khadar Buncun in Boosaaso on August 7, although the group did not claim responsibility for Buncun’s murder.[9]

Somali security forces interdicted a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack on a checkpoint in Daynile district, Mogadishu on August 9. Security forces detained the al Shabaab militant before he could detonate the SVBIED. Al Shabaab often detonates SVBIEDs on highways and checkpoints to undermine ongoing security operations in the capital.[10]

[1] “President al Samad confirms readiness for peace and dealing in any initiative provided the path of Ould Cheikh is not taken,” Al Masirah, August 8, 2017,; and “Former President of the Republic meets head of the EU mission,” Sabanews, August 8, 2017,  
[2] “Abyan .. Deployment of al Hizam force to al Maraksha mountains in preparation for campaign against al Qaeda,” Yemen Akhbar, August 9, 2017,; “The arrival of two leaders Abdullatif Sayyid and Abu al Yamamah to the mountains of Khobar overlooking the lines to secure the coastline and fight the terrorists,” Hadramout, August 9, 2017,; and “103rd Infantry Brigade in Jahhayn advance toward Lawder,” Yemen Akhbar, August 9, 2017,   
[3] AQAP releases statement on Shabwah, Telegram, August 9, 2017; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, August 4, 2017,
[4] “The al Houthis reinforce in an attempt to recover Camp Khalid,” Aden Lange, August 9, 2017,; and “Coalition fighters bomb al Houthi positions and battles continue west of the city of Taiz,” Al Masdar Online, August 9, 2017,
[5] “Yemen Crisis: Closure of Sana’a airport – One year of aggravated suffering,” Relief Web, August 9, 2017,; Jamie McGoldrick, Twitter, August 8, 2017,; and WHO Yemen, Twitter, August 6, 2017,  
[6] “The assassination of a relative of President Hadi in Aden,” Barakish, August 9, 2017,; “Gunmen shoot at a car carrying relatives of President Hadi in Aden,” Yemen Akhbar, August 9, 2017,; and “A source at al Jumhuriya Hospital: Mohammed Nasser al Marimi was not killed but seriously injured,” Aden Tomorrow, August 9, 2017,      
[7] David Mwere, “NASA to Move to Court to ‘Stop Uhuru Swearing In’,” Nairobi News, August 9, 2017,; and Conflict News, Twitter, August 9, 2017,
[8] “Alshabab attacks Abuu Mansur in his own backyard,” Goobjoog News, August 9, 2017,; Harun Maruf, Twitter, August 9, 2017,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, August 9, 2017,
[9] “Gunmen kill Puntland Security Official in Bosaso,” Garowe Online, August 9, 2017,
[10] Live from Mogadishu, Twitter, August 9, 2017,
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