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: Reported U.S. airstrike kills three AQAP militants in Shabwah governorate; Hadi government agrees to UN Security Council presidential statement; Saudi-led coalition airstrike targets qat market near Saudi-Yemeni border; U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman accuses Iran of supplying anti-ship missiles to al Houthi-Saleh faction; AQAP and ISIS claim attacks in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; AQAP releases two theological videos; Transitional Political Council of the South announces confederation proposal; cholera deaths exceed 1,000 in Yemen

Horn of Africa: Kenyan Police arrest 85 suspected al Shabaab militants in two days; al Shabaab raids SNA and AMISOM base in Bulaberde town, Hiraan region; Ethiopia supports AU fact-finding mission on Djiboutian-Eritrean border; President Farmajo encourages al Shabaab defections; al Shabaab attacks KDF base in Gedo region; al Shabaab raids SNA base near Hudur, Bakool region; al Shabaab detonates IED targeting civilian bus in Mandera County, Kenya; SNA ends tribal clashes along Hiraan-Galgudud border

Yemen Security Brief

A reported U.S. airstrike killed three al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on June 16. The strike hit a single vehicle in Habban district, near the border between Shabwah and Abyan governorates. Reported casualties included a militant closely connected to Saad Atef, the AQAP emir in Shabwah. This is the first U.S. airstrike in Yemen since U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) conducted a raid in Ma'rib governorate on May 23.[1]

President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Foreign Minister, Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, agreed to the June 17 UN Security Council presidential statement on Yemen. The Hadi government concurred with the statement’s call for the opening of al Hudaydah port to international observers and the resumption of government salary payments. The UNSC presidential statement called on the al Houthi-Saleh faction to cease all attacks on Saudi Arabia. Al Houthi Ansar Allah party spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam asserted that UNSC statements on Yemen encourage the Saudi-led coalition to continue its aggression against Yemen. He stated that al Houthi-Saleh forces have full legitimacy to defend themselves against Saudi-led coalition attacks.[2]  

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 25 people in a market in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on June 17. Al Houthi-Saleh officials stated that coalition aircraft launched two strikes on the market in Shada district, western Sa’ada. Eyewitnesses to the strike called the market a center for smuggling the narcotic qat across the Yemeni-Saudi border. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 22 people at a qat market in Khokha city, southern al Hudaydah governorate on March 10.[3]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford condemned Iran for supplying “advanced anti-ship cruise missiles” to al Houthi Salah forces on Yemen’s western coast on June 16. He highlighted the threat that al Houthi-Saleh forces pose to freedom of navigation in the Bab al Mandab Strait. Al Houthi-Saleh forces attacked an Emirati ship near the coast of Taiz, western Yemen, on June 14. Al Houthi-Saleh forces previously struck an Emirati warship with a surface-to-ship missile and fired missiles at the USS Mason near the Bab al Mandab Strait in October 2016.[4]

AQAP and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham’s (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed attacks in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. AQAP militants killed one al Houthi-Saleh fighter in a village near Hammat Sarar, northwestern al Bayda governorate on June 16 and eight al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Taffa area, central al Bayda governorate on June 17. ISIS militants and tribal militiamen attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in Laqah village, northwestern al Bayda governorate on June 18. ISIS claimed that the attack lasted 10 hours and killed 15 al Houthi-Saleh fighters. Wilayat al Bayda previously claimed to seize Laqah village on February 24. ISIS, AQAP, and local militias cooperate on a tactical level against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen.[5]

AQAP senior spokesman Khaled Batarfi released two videos as part of his series “Stories of the Prophets” on June 16 and June 17. The second episode of the series, “The Power of Faith,” focused on the strength of belief. The third episode, “Patience on the Call for Jihad,” emphasized the importance of resilience under pressure. Batarfi released the first episode of the series on June 15. The intended audience for this series is Yemen’s Sunni tribes. AQAP seeks to present its ideology as more palatable to the Yemeni population than ISIS’s ideology.[6]

Hadramawt Governor Ahmed Bin Brik announced on June 18 that the Transitional Political Council for the South will issue a resolution in fall 2017. The resolution proposes the formation of a confederation in southern Yemen and details its system of governance and regulation. Bin Brik assured supporters that the cancellation of the Council’s scheduled meeting on June 13 will not slow its progress. The Transitional Political Council, a body of southern Yemeni political leaders formed on May 4, seeks to establish a representative governing entity for southern Yemen.[7]

Cholera-related deaths in Yemen exceeded 1,000 on June 17. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on June 18 that cholera has infected a suspected 158,960 people and caused 1,100 associated deaths since April 27. The ongoing civil war has disrupted humanitarian aid and healthcare services, making cholera treatment more difficult.[8]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

 Kenyan Police arrested 80 suspected al Shabaab militants in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi on June 18.Kenyan police arrested four al Shabaab militants after raiding a hideout in Voi town near Mombasa, Kenya on June 19. Kenyan police failed to arrest a fifth suspect who escaped the police operation. Kenyan police claimed the suspects were traveling to Nairobi to launch attacks during Eid celebrations.[9]

Al Shabaab raided a joint SNA and Djiboutian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base in Bulaberde town, Hiraan region, central Somalia on June 18. SNA and AMISOM forces repelled the attack. Al Shabaab claimed the raid was successful. No casualties were reported.[10] 

Ethiopia claimed it will support the African Union fact-finding mission along the Djiboutian-Eritrean border on June 19. The African Union initiated the fact-finding mission on June 16 after Djibouti claimed Eritrea was occupying “disputed territory” along the contested border. Eritrea deployed troops to the Djiboutian-Eritrean border on June 14 in response to Qatar’s military withdrawal from the area. Qatar maintained approximately 450 soldiers along the border before Eritrea severed diplomatic ties on June 14. Eritrea joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and several other Arab states that cut ties with Qatar on June 8. Djibouti also downgraded its relations with Qatar, though it maintains a low level of diplomatic cooperation. Qatari peacekeepers deployed to the Horn of Africa following a border war between Djibouti and Eritrea in 2008.[11]

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo sent a letter to al Shabaab on June 18 to encourage militants to defect to the Somali Federal Government. President Farmajo advised al Shabaab militants to take advantage of a government amnesty offer before the SNA and AMISOM conduct further operations against the group. President Farmajo wrote to al Shabaab in response to the June 14 al Shabaab attack that killed 31 civilians in Mogadishu. This marks President Farmajo’s second appeal for militants to defect. President Farmajo declared war on al Shabaab in April 2017.[12]

Al Shabaab raided a Kenyan Defense Force (KDF) base near Bardhere, Gedo region, southern Somalia on June 17. KDF and AMISOM forces repelled the attack, inflicting an unspecified number of casualties. KDF jets struck al Shabaab targets in Garas Dulan, Gedo region on June 12.[13]

Al Shabaab militants raided a SNA base in el Lahelay village, near Hudur, Bakool region, central Somalia on June 17. Militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades clashed with SNA soldiers. The clashes killed five people and wounded 12 others. Al Shabaab militants also detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a SNA convoy on the outskirts of Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on June 17. [14]

Al Shabaab detonated an IED targeting a civilian passenger bus at Sheikh Barrow area, Mandera County, Kenya on June 16. The attack killed four passengers and wounded 11 others. Police personnel were aboard the bus. Al Shabaab released a propaganda video on June 12 threatening a “perpetual war” in Kenya.[15]

SNA soldiers intervened to stop inter-clan clashes over grazing territory in Hiraan region on June 17. Clan militiamen clashed along the Hiraan-Galgudud border from June 13 to June 16, killing over 12 people.[16] 

[1] “Breaking .. American Airstrike Targets an al Qaeda Car in Habban, Shabwah,” Barakish Net, June 16, 2017,; and “Source: Airstrike in Shabwah Targeted Brother of al Qaeda leader in the Governorate, Aden Tomorrow, June 16, 2017,; and “Drone Strike Kills 3 Qaeda Suspects in Yemen,” Arab News, June 19, 2017,
[2] “Yemen government agrees to U.N. Hodeidah plan, Houthis skeptical,” Reuters, June 17, 2017,; and “Yemen Spokesman of Ansar Allah Holds the UNSC Responsible for the Continuation of Aggression and Calls on the Yemeni People to Defend Themselves with Reason and Logic,” Al Masirah, June 17, 2017,  
[3] “Health Official: 25 Killed in Saudi Airstrikes on a Market in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, June 19, 2017,; “24 Civilians Killed in Strike on a Market in Sa'ada Governorate, Yemen,” BBC Arabic, June 18, 2017,; and “Saudi-led coalition air strike kills 22 in Yemen: official,” Reuters, March 11, 2017,  
[4] “CJCS Dunford Talks Turkey, Iran, Afghan Troop Numbers & Daesh,” Breaking Defense, June 16, 2017,; “The Coalition Supports Legitimacy in Yemen: Emirati Ship Exposed to Missile Attack off the Coast of Yemen,” Saudi Press Agency, June 15, 2017,; “Coalition: Emirati Ship Attacked by Guided Missile as it Exited Port of Mokha,” Barakish Net, June 15, 2017,; and “Iranian involvement in missile attacks on the USS Mason,” The Critical Threats Project, October 19, 2016,
[5] Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, June 19, 2017,; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims its militants seized Laqah village, al Bayda, Dawaal Haq, February 25 and 27, 2017. Sniping Houthi Fighters in Hammat Sarar, Telegram, June 16; Eight Houthis Dead and Wounded in al Bayda, Telegram, June 17; “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 12, 2017,
[6] The Second Episode of Power by Faith, Telegram, June 16, 2017; The Third Episode of Patience on the Call, June 17, 2017, Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, June 16, 2017,; Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, June 18, 2017,
[7] “‘Southern Transition Council’ Reveals the Form of the New State,” Aden Lange, June 18, 2017,; and Maher Farrukh, Tyler Nocita, and Katherine Zimmerman, “Warning Update: Fracturing of the Yemeni State,” AEIs Critical Threats Project, May 12, 2017,
[8] “YEMEN: cholera outbreak Daily epidemiology update: 18 June 2017,” World Health Organization; June 18, 2017,; and WHO Yemen, Twitter, June 18, 2017,
[9] “Four Al shabaab suspects in apprehended in Kenya,” Shabelle News, June 19, 2017,
[10] “Al shabaab attack SNA and Djibouti bases in Bulaburte,” Shabelle News, June 18, 2017,
[11] Salem Solomon, “Djibouti Says Eritrea Seized Disputed Territory,” Voice of America, June 17, 2017,, Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Ethiopia monitoring Eritrea-Djibouti border spat, backs AU intervention,” Africa News, June 19, 2017,
[12] “President Farmajo Second Appeal to Alshabab fighters,” Goobjoog, June 18, 2017,; and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “President Farmajo Makes Second Appeal To Al-Shabaab Fighters To Denounce The Terrorist Group,” Intelligence Briefs, June 19, 2017,
[13] “Al shabaab militants raid large KDF base in Somalia,” Shabelle News, June 17, 2017,
[14] “Al shabaab launches attack on Somali army outpost,” Shabelle News, June 18, 2017,; and “Huge Roadside bomb hits army convoy near Jowhar,” Shabelle News, June 17, 2017, .
[15] “Four dead as passenger vehicle hits IED in Mandera,” Standard Digital, June 16, 2017,
[16] “Gov’t troops intervene in Inter-clan fighting in Hiran,” Shabelle News, June 17, 2017,

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