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. defense officials confirm al Houthi-Saleh missile attack on Saudi Arabia; Hadi government forces seize Camp Khalid ibn al Walid, Taiz governorate, western Yemen; AQAP spokesman calls on southern Yemenis to wage jihad; Hadi government-aligned forces attack al Houthi-Saleh fighters in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; UN representatives call for more aid to Yemen; UN investigators accuse coalition of attacking Somali migrant ship

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab commander urges Kenyan Muslims to abstain from August elections; al Shabaab claims second attack in two days in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; al Shabaab shells AMISOM base in Jalalaqsi town, Hiraan region, central Somalia; al Shabaab displaces 15,0000 Somalis in May 2017

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. defense officials confirmed on July 27 that al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a missile from Sa’ada governorate toward Yanbu port, western Saudi Arabia on July 23. The Scud missile traveled 930 kilometers, which is the farthest reported distance traveled by an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile. Al Houthi-Saleh media described the missile as a “Borkan-2” ballistic missile. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also claimed to fire two “Zilzal-2” ballistic missiles toward Asir region, southwestern Saudi Arabia on July 27. Saudi officials previously confirmed the interception of an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile fired toward Riyadh in May 2017. Iranian operatives or proxies likely provide technical expertise to enhance al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile  capabilities.[1]

Forces aligned with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government seized Camp Khalid ibn al Walid in western Taiz governorate on July 27. Hadi government-aligned forces entered the camp’s western gate on July 26, but withdrew after improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by al Houthi-Saleh forces killed several soldiers. Hadi government officials falsely claimed to seize the camp on July 26. Hadi government forces now seek to control the junction linking Taiz city to Mokha city, which is located just east of the camp.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) spokesman Khaled Batarfi urged southern Yemenis to join AQAP’s fight against the al Houthi-Saleh faction and Emirati-backed security forces in a propaganda video released on July 27. The video, titled “To Our People in the South - When Harmony is to be Deterred,” accused Emirati-backed forces of torturing innocent Muslims in secret prisons and condemned the Zaydi Shia al Houthi movement for waging a war against the Sunni population.[3]

Hadi government-aligned forces attacked al Houthi-Saleh fighters in Dhi Na’im district, central al Bayda governorate on July 27. Forces loyal to the Hadi government claimed to seize al Houthi-Saleh positions in Dhi Na’im district, killing several al Houthi-Saleh fighters. AQAP frequently fights alongside tribal militias against al Houthi-Saleh forces in Dhi Na’im district.[4]

United Nations officials released a joint statement on July 26 calling for international support to address Yemen’s mounting humanitarian crisis. The directors of UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), and World Health Organization (WHO) traveled to Yemen on July 24 and met with healthcare and government officials in Aden and Sana’a. The WHO reported more than 400,000 cases of cholera and 1,900 related deaths in Yemen on July 26.[5] 

UN investigators accused the Saudi-led coalition of targeting a Somali migrant boat off Yemen’s western coast in a March 2017 airstrike. UN investigators submitted a report to the UN Security Council on July 26, claiming that the Saudi-led coalition has become a cover for states to avoid international condemnation for violating humanitarian law.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab released a propaganda video on July 26 urging Kenyan Muslims to abstain from participating in Kenya’s general elections. The video features an interview with the group’s commander in Kenya, Mujahid Ahmad Iman Ali. Al Shabaab released a video on July 22 encouraging voters to support candidates who favor a Kenyan military withdrawal from Somalia.[7]

Al Shabaab claimed to attack a Somali National Army (SNA) barracks in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on July 27. This marks the second attack targeting Somali security forces in Afgoi in two days. Al Shabaab detonated an IED targeting an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) convoy in Afgoi on July 26. Afgoi lies along two major highways on the outskirts of Mogadishu.[8]

Al Shabaab militants shelled an AMISOM base in Jalalaqsi town, Hiraan region, central Somalia on July 27. SNA troops interdicted a separate al Shabaab attack on Jalalaqsi earlier the same day. Jalalaqsi lies along the intersection of a major highway and the Webi Shabelle River.[9]

Al Shabaab’s attacks  displaced over 15,000 Somalis in Lower Shabelle region in May 2017, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW reported that al Shabaab burned 18 villages in Marka, Lower Shabelle region from May 8 to July 12. HRW stated that the Somali Federal Government’s failure to address communal tensions enable al Shabaab attacks, arson, and cattle raiding in Afgoi and Marka. Al Shabaab also raided and burned villages in Awdheegle and Qoryooley towns in Lower Shabelle region.[10]

[1] “US officials: Iranian-backed group fired missile deep into Saudi Arabia,” CNN, July 27, 2017,; “Two ballistic missiles hit Saudi soldiers’ groups in Asir,” Sabanews, July 27, 2017,; and “‘Zilzal-2’ ballistic missile launched towards Salman air base in Riyadh,” Sabanews, March 18, 2017,; “Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi rebel missile fired towards Riyadh, Deutsche Welle, May 20, 2017,; and Tom Cooper, “How Did the Houthis Manage to Lob a Ballistic Missile at Mecca?” War is Boring, January 2, 2017,

[2] “Government forces control the largest military base in southwestern Yemen and progress towards the Mokha intersection,” Al Masdar Online, July 27, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, July 26, 2017,

[3] AQAP spokesman Khaled Batarfi calls southern Yemenis to fight the al Houthi movement and Emirati-backed forces, Telegram, July 27, 2017.

[4] “The resistance controls two positions in Dhi Na’im district, al Bayda after an attack that killed several al Houthis,” Al Masdar Online, July 27, 2017,

[5] “Statement by UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, WFP Executive Director, David Beasley and WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, following their joint visit to Yemen,” World Health Organization, July 26, 2017,; and WHO Yemen, Twitter, July 26, 2017, 

[6] “Exclusive: U.N. report accuses Saudi coalition of deadly migrant boat attack off Yemen,” Reuters, July 26, 2017,

[7] Morad News, Twitter, July 26, 2017,

[8] Al Shabaab claims attack on SNA barracks in Afgoi, Telegram, July 27, 2017.

[9] “Al shabaab fires mortar rounds at AMISOM base in Jalalaqsi,” Shabelle News, July 27, 2017,

[10] “Al-Shabaab burned homes and abducted civilians displacing over 15,000 in May-HRW,” Shabelle News, July 27, 2017,

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