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: Emirati-backed forces seize complete control of al Hudaydah Airport; AQAP official vows AQAP will return more powerful than before; Yemeni government forces begin operations to clear al Houthi forces and AQAP from al Bayda governorate; AQAP detonates IED targeting Emirati-backed forces in Shabwah governorate; Iran deploys destroyer and helicopter carrier to the Gulf of Aden

Horn of Africa: Pentagon assesses that June 8 al Shabaab attack does not signal improved capabilities; al Shabaab IED strikes AMISOM personnel carrier in Balad town, Middle Shabelle region; Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hosts South Sudan peace talks

Yemen Security Brief

Emirati-backed Yemeni forces seized complete control of al Hudaydah Airport from al Houthi forces on June 20. Emirati-backed forces assaulted the airport as part of  Operation Golden Victory to seize al Hudaydah port along Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Abdul Malik al Houthi vowed to continue confronting Emirati-backed forces and that the battle for al Hudaydah will be a “swamp to destroy and overwhelm” the coalition. [1]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) senior official Khaled Batarfi discussed the current situation of AQAP, U.S. military forces, and the UAE in Yemen in an interview published on June 19. Batarfi acknowledged that AQAP is facing obstacles and lacks resources but announced that AQAP activity will return more powerful than before. Batarfi claimed that Emirati, Saudi, and American forces extorted individuals with “filthy acts” to recruit Yemenis to spy on AQAP. He also alleged that U.S. military forces were ineffective and “failed in their war” in the Arabian Peninsula. [2]

Yemeni government forces announced the start of a counterterrorism operation supported by the Saudi-led coalition to clear AQAP from al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on June 21.  The Yemeni government also announced the start of a new coalition-backed offensive to seize al Bayda from the al Houthi movement on June 20. [3]

Likely AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Shabwani Elite Forces in al Said district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen. The blast killed and wounded three soldiers, according to local sources.[4]

Iran deployed a destroyer and helicopter carrier to the Gulf of Aden on June 21. Iran sent the helicopter carrier Khark and the destroyer Siblan from its 54th fleet to the region.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Pentagon assessed that recent al Shabaab attacks do not reflect new capabilities. U.S. military and counterintelligence officials stated that the June 8 attack on a joint U.S.-Somali military base was typical of al Shabaab operations. The June 8 attack killed one U.S. service member and wounded four others.[6]

A likely al Shabaab improvised explosive device (IED) struck an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel carrier transporting Burundian troops in Balad town, Middle Shabelle region near Mogadishu on June 20. No group has claimed the attack.[7]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hosted the two leaders of South Sudan’s civil war on June 20. President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar met for talks in Addis Ababa for the first time since South Sudan’s civil war re-erupted in July 2016. Ahmed has spent his two months in office reaching out to neighbors and promoting Ethiopia as a force for regional integration and stability. The U.S. Treasury urged Ugandan and Kenyan officials on June 13 to restrict South Sudanese illegal investments in the two countries.[8]

[1] “Yemen rebels vow to fight on after Hudaida airport defeat,” Al Jazeera, June 21,; Asa Fitch, “Saudi Coalition Beats Back Houthi Rebels from Hodeidah Airport,” Wall Street Journal, June 20,; and “Leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi Talks about Developments in West Coast,” Al Masirah, June 20,   
[2] “AQAP publishes interview with official regarding military situation of fighters, yemeni public perception of U.S. forces,” Site Intelligence Group, June 20, 2018,
[3] “Yemen begins a counterterrorism operation to combat AQAP in Al Bayda Governorate,” Al Dostor, June 21,; “Security operation to combat AQAP in Bayda governorate,” al Ittihad, June 21,; “National Army forces launch a large-scale military operation and liberate a number of strategic locations in Al-Bayda,” Saba News, June 20,; and “The launch of a military operation to liberate "Al-Bayda" with the participation of 5 brigades,” Sabq, June 20,     
[4] “Three were killed and injured in an AQAP trap in Shabwah governorate,” Al Mashhad, June 21,
[5] “Iran sends aircraft carrier and destroyer to the Gulf of Aden,” Arabic Russia Today, June 21,
[6] Jeff Seldin, “Al-Shabab militant group getting lucky, not stronger in Somalia,” VOA, June 20, 2018,
[7] “Large explosion targeted African Union- AMISOM personnel carrier near Balcad town, some 35km north of Mogadishu,” Mogadishu News, Twitter, June 20, 2018,; and “Massive explosion hits AU military convoy about 45km north of Mogadishu late Wednesday; reports say Burundian military convoy has been targeted,” Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 20, 2018,
[8] “IGAD leaders head to Ethiopia as Kiir, Machar meet face to face,” Africa Times, June 21, 2018,; Megan Specia, “Warring Leaders of South Sudan Meet for Peace Talks,” NY Times, June 21, 2018,; “Other leaders of IGAD member states arriving in Addis Abeba to take part in the 32nd Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD scheduled to begin today. South Sudan will be top of the agenda,” Addis Standard, Twitter, June 21, 2018,; and Mugume Davis Rwakaringi, “US official urges Uganda, Kenya to stop corrupt South Sudanese investments,” VOA, June 14, 2018,

View Citations
Arrow down red
Jul '18
Jun '18
May '18