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: Southern council announces governmental structure; reported U.S. airstrike kills AQAP commander in Shabwah governorate; al Houthi-Saleh court to execute suspected Saudi AQAP militants; Emirati-backed security forces disrupt suicide bombing in Lahij governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missile targeting Hadi government forces in western Taiz governorate; UAE intercepts al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile in Ma’rib governorate; Saudi-led coalition warplanes strike al Houthi-Saleh forces in northern Yemen; coalition warships target al Houthi-Saleh positions in western Taiz governorate; Hadi government committee denies use of torture in secret prisons; U.S. President Trump pledges $191 million in food aid for Yemen; cholera infects 300,000 Yemenis

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab beheads nine civilians in Lamu County, Kenya; al Shabaab conducts multiple attacks in Mogadishu; Puntland Security Forces destroy al Shabaab bases in the Galgala Mountains; al Shabaab video urges suicide attacks; AMISOM soldiers kill civilian outside of Mogadishu; al Shabaab claims responsibility for attacks on AMISOM soldiers in Halgan, Hiraan region; Kenya and Uganda receive five Huey helicopters for AMISOM operations; Somalia’s internet outage costs government $10 million per day

Yemen Security Brief

President of the Transitional Political Council for the South Aydarus al Zubaidi announced the council’s governmental structure on July 9. The council rivals the internationally recognized government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in southern Yemen. The council will consist of ten departments tasked with overseeing external relations, political organization, public information, the economy, and legal affairs. Al Zubaidi affirmed the council’s commitment to overseeing security and counterterrorism operations alongside the Saudi-led coalition. Unnamed security officials endorsed the council’s July 7 pledge to prohibit Muslim Brotherhood operations in southern Yemen, according to a southern news source. European Union parliamentarian James Carver expressed support for the council and called for meetings between the EU and the council in both Aden and Brussels.[1]  

A U.S. airstrike struck an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) vehicle and killed an unnamed commander in Azzan city, Shabwah governorate on July 10, according to local sources. AQAP withdrew from Azzan in August 2016 after seizing the city in February 2016. A U.S. airstrike last targeted AQAP militants in Shabwah governorate on June 16.[2]

An al Houthi-Saleh court in Sana’a city sentenced four Saudi AQAP militants to death on July 10 for beheading 14 Yemeni soldiers in an August 2014 attack in Hadramawt governorate. Former AQAP leader Nasser bin Ali al Ansi condemned the beheadings in December 2014 and claimed that the militants were acting outside of AQAP’s command.[3]

Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces disrupted an attempted suicide bombing and captured two militants in Yafa area, northern Lahij governorate on July 9. One militant detonated his explosives shortly after his capture, killing himself and injuring one member of the security forces.[4]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a “Zilzal-2” ballistic missile at Hadi government-aligned forces near Mokha city, western Yemen on July 10, according to al Houthi-Saleh sources. The missile struck Yemeni government positions east of Mokha city, western Taiz governorate, killing dozens of personnel. Al Houthi-Saleh forces last fired a ballistic missile at Hadi government-aligned forces in Taiz governorate on June 27.[5]

Emirati air defense systems intercepted an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen on July 8. Saudi-led coalition forces intercepted an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile fired toward Ma’rib city on July 3.[6]

Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted al Houthi-Saleh positions in northern Yemen on July 9. Coalition warplanes struck al Houthi-Saleh forces on Jebel al Doud and Jebel Shada, western Sa’ada governorate, near the Yemeni-Saudi border. The strikes destroyed al Houthi-Saleh B-10 recoilless rifles and killed 27 fighters. Coalition warplanes also launched four strikes in al Ghayl district, western al Jawf governorate, destroying an al Houthi-Saleh weapons store.[7]

Saudi-led coalition warships struck al Houthi-Saleh positions in Mawza’ district, western Taiz governorate on July 9. Coalition battleships launched approximately 20 rockets on al Hamli and Camp Khalid, western Mawza’, killing 13 al Houthi-Saleh fighters and destroying multiple military vehicles.[8]

A Hadi government fact-finding committee denied recent allegations of torture and abuse in Emirati-administered clandestine detention sites on July 10.  Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghir formed the six-person committee on June 24 to investigate southern prisons. The committee denied the existence of any secret prisons in southern Yemen. An Associated Press report accused Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces of abusing detainees on June 22.[9]

U.S. President Donald Trump pledged $191 million in food aid to Yemen on July 8. The financial commitment is part of a $639 million pledge to the United Nations World Food Programme to counter malnutrition and famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Food insecurity is a primarily contributor to the current cholera outbreak in Yemen.[10] 

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced on July 10 that cholera has infected more than 300,000 people in Yemen. The cholera epidemic infects around 7,200 new people every day and has killed more than 1,700 Yemenis since late April 2017.[11]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants beheaded nine civilians in Jima village, Lamu County, eastern Kenya on July 8. Nearly fifteen al Shabaab militants conducted a late-night raid on Jima village on July 7, taking several civilian hostages. The raid marks the second attack in Lamu County this week. Over 150 al Shabaab militants clashed with Kenyan security forces in Pandanguo, Lamu County on July 5. Pandanguo is approximately one mile from Jima village. Kenya’s acting Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i implemented nighttime curfews in Lamu, Garissa and Tana River counties in response to the attack. Local administrations issued warnings for impending al Shabaab attacks in Lamu County.[12]

Al Shabaab militants threw two grenades at Yaqshid district headquarters in Mogadishu, Somalia on July 10. The attack killed a Somali National Army (SNA) soldier and wounded one other. Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for the assassination of a Somali Ministry of Finance official in Mogadishu on July 9. Likely al Shabaab militants also assassinated a local administrator in the capital on July 10.[13]

Puntland Security Forces destroyed several al Shabaab bases in the Galgala Mountains near Boosaaso, Bari region, northern Somalia on July 9. Al Shabaab used the bases for training, logistics, command, and supply. Puntland forces killed 18 al Shabaab militants in the operation. Al Shabaab claimed to repel the attack. Puntland forces increased attacks on al Shabaab after the group seized a Puntland Security Force base in Af Urur, Bari region in June 2017.[14]

Al Shabaab released a propaganda video urging suicide attacks and foreign fighter recruitment as part of a new video series titled “Inspire the Believers” on July 9. The video features a Tanzanian suicide bomber named Ndugu Salmaan, who participated in an attack on crowds viewing the FIFA World Cup in Kampala, Uganda in July 2010. Salmaan advocated suicide attacks and urged others to travel to Somalia to join al Shabaab as foreign fighters. The video also includes a speech from Sheikhe Abaoud Rogo, a Kenyan cleric who was affiliated with al Shabaab until his death in 2012. Rogo encourages suicide attacks in his speech. Al Shabaab’s Kata’ib Foundation produced the video.[15] 

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers shot and killed a civilian woman in Arbacow outside of Mogadishu on July 10. The incident occurred after al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting an AMISOM vehicle. This follows a similar incident in Elasha Bihaya outside of Mogadishu on July 9, when likely SNA soldiers opened fire on a civilian vehicle, killing eight people.[16]

Al Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for an ambush on Ethiopian AMISOM soldiers at a checkpoint in Halgan, Hiraan region, central Somalia on July 10. Al Shabaab claimed to kill two AMISOM soldiers in the unconfirmed attack. Al Shabaab also claimed to kill four Ethiopian AMISOM soldiers in an ambush attack in Halgan on July 8.[17]

Uganda purchased five Huey II helicopters from U.S.-based Bell Helicopters to enhance AMISOM efforts against al Shabaab in Somalia. Bell Helicopters agreed to supply Kenya and Uganda with 13 helicopters in an $87.6 million contract signed in September 2016.[18]

An ongoing internet outage costs Somalia $10 million each day, according to a government official. Somali Telecommunications Minister Abdi Anshur Hassan stated on July 9 that Somalia has lost more than $130 million since the outage began on June 25, when a ship severed an underwater fiber optic cable off the coast of Somalia. The outage has disrupted government, business, and media operations throughout southern and central Somalia.[19]

[1] Aidroos zubidi, Facebook, July 9, 2017,; “Aydarus: We Recognize Hadi’s Legitimacy,” Barakish, July 9, 2017,; “National Security Associates: Ready to Support the Southern Council on Banning Extremist Groups,” Aden Time, July 8, 2017,; and James Carver MEP, Twitter, July 9, 2017,
[2] “A senior al Qaeda leader was killed in an air strike in Shabwah,” Aden Lange, July 10, 2017,; “Strike Against AQAP and Abu Khattab al Awlaqi in Yemen,” U.S. Central Command, June 22, 2017,; and “Al Qaeda withdraws entirely from the town of Azzan in Shabwa province after Alliance raids,” Al Masdar, August 9, 2016,
[3] “Four Saudis Sentenced to Death for Belonging to al Qaeda,” Al Masirah, July 9, 2017,; “Al Houthi Yemeni court executes four Saudis,” Aden Lange, July 10, 2017,; and “Top commander of al Qaeda in Yemen: Beheadings are ‘barbaric,” CBS News, December 8, 2014,
[4] “Security source: A suicide bomber was killed and another seize by a security operation,” Aden Tomorrow, July 9, 2017,; and “The al Hizam security forces thwarted an attempted suicide bombing,” Aden Lange, July 9, 2017,
[5] “Army fires ballistic missile on Saudi-paid mercenaries in Mokha,” Saba news, July 10, 2017,
[6] “UAE Defenses Continue to Secure Ma’rib Skies,” Aden Lange, July 8, 2017,; and “Missile fired by al Houthi-Saleh forces towards Ma’rib city .. No Casualties,” Al Masdar Online, July 3, 2017,
[7] “The Coalition Destroys Sites and Armaments of al Houthi-Saleh forces near Saudi Border,” Barakish net, July 9, 2017,; and “Arab Coalition Warplanes Launch Airstrikes on al Houthi-Saleh Positions in Nihm and al Jawf,” Aden Tomorrow, July 9, 2017,  
[8] “Taiz: Shelling of al Houthi-Saleh Positions in Mawza’ leads to 13 deaths,” Barakish, July 9, 2017,
[9] “Fact checking claims about ‘secret torture prisons’ in Yemen,” Al Arabiya, July 10, 2017,; “Yemen orders probe into alleged torture by UAE,” Al Jazeera, June 24, 2017,; and "Gulf of Aden Security Review," AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 22, 2017,
[10] “At G20 summit, Trump pledges $639 million in aid to four countries,” Reuters, July 8, 2017,
[11] “Yemen cholera cases pass 300,000 mark, ICRC says,” Reuters, July 10, 2017,
[12] “Al-Shabaab militants kill nine in Lamu,” Daily Nation, July 8, 2017,; and “Lamu residents flee homes after attacks,” Daily Nation, July 8, 2017,
[13] “Assailants attak local Govt HQ in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, July 10, 2017,; “Shabaab Claims Assassinating Somali Finance Ministry Official, Storming Defense Ministry,” SITE Intelligence Group; July 9, 2017, available by subscription at; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, July 10,
[14] “Somali forces say they kill 18 insurgents in northern Puntland region,” Shabelle News, July 9, 2017,; “Puntland Security Forces Destroy Al-Shabaab Base, Kill 18 Extremists In Galgala Mountains,” Intelligence Briefs, July 10, 2017,;
[15] “Kampala Suicide Bomber Incites Muslims to Seek “Martyrdom” in Battlefield in First Episode of New Shabaab Video Series,” SITE, July 9, 2017, available by subscription at
[16] “AU soldiers kill woman after IED attack on their convoy outside Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, July 10, 2017,; “Shabaab Claims Assassinating Somali Finance Ministry Official, Storming Defense Ministry,” SITE Intelligence Group; July 9, 2017, available by subscription at; and “Eight civilians killed in bus attack near Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, July 10, 2017,
[17] “Al shabaab claims killing two Somali soldiers in attack,” Shabelle News, July 9, 207,; and “Shabaab Claims Assassinating Somali Finance Ministry Official, Storming Defense Ministry,” SITE Intelligence Group; July 9, 2017, available by subscription at
[18] Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Kenya & Uganda To Receive 5 Huey II Helicopters To Enhance War Against Al-Shabaab,” Intelligence Briefs, July 10, 2017,
[19] “Somalia’s internet outage costing country $10 million a day,” Shabelle News, July 9, 2017,

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