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. acknowledges interrogations at Yemeni prisons; Saudi crown prince may replace President Hadi; AQAP coordinates with tribal militias in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; AQAP spokesperson continues video series; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim missile launch into Saudi Arabia; Yemeni Islah party to meet after two years

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates SVBIED targeting Waberi district police station in Mogadishu; Mudug police warn of al Shabaab attacks in Galkayo, Mudug region following peace agreement; Burhakaba security forces conduct joint operation with Ethiopian AMISOM in Bay region; Somali National Army clashes with Warsheikh security forces in Middle Shabelle region; Frontier Services Group signs security agreement with Somalia’s South West State

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. defense officials acknowledged on June 22 that American personnel participated in interrogations at clandestine detention sites in southern Yemen. Human rights organizations accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemeni government forces of torturing detainees. U.S. officials asserted that no torture occurred while American personnel were present. The U.S. frequently receives information remotely from Emirati forces conducting interrogations. The use of any intelligence acquired through torture would violate the International Convention Against Torture. Yemeni civilians frequently protest in Aden and Mukalla over arbitrary detentions by Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces.[1]

The new crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, may replace the internationally recognized president of Yemen, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Bin Salman reportedly told the Ruler’s Representative of the Eastern Region of the United Arab Emirates, Tahnoon bin Zayed, that he will replace Hadi with Khaled Bahah, according to Middle East Eye. Bahah served as Yemen’s prime minister and vice president from 2014 until April 2016, when President Hadi removed him from the position. Bahah is reportedly close to Emirati leadership.[2] 

Tribal militias and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants tactically cooperated to retake al Houthi-Saleh positions in southern al Bayda governorate on June 22. Tribal forces previously withdrew from a battle against the al Houthi-Saleh faction in southern al Bayda governorate on June 20 to protest a terror watch list released by Saudi Arabia on June 8. AQAP militants also claimed to kill three al Houthi-Saleh fighters at Hope Hospital in Rada’a, al Bayda governorate on June 21.[3]

AQAP spokesman Khaled Batarfi released the fourth episode of his series “Stories of the Prophets” on June 21. Batarfi stressed the need to educate children about Islam at an early age. Batarfi has released four theological videos in the past week. The intent of the series is to market al Qaeda’s ideology to Yemen’s Sunni tribes.[4]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to launch a “Zilzal-2” ballistic missile at Saudi-led coalition forces on the Yemeni-Saudi border on June 22. Al Houthi-Saleh media reported that the strike killed dozens of Saudi and Sudanese troops at the al Tiwal border crossing in Jazan governorate, southern Saudi Arabia. The attack is unconfirmed. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to launch a ballistic missile into Saudi territory on May 19.[5]

The Yemeni Islah party is scheduled to meet in Aden city on June 22, marking its first official activity in two years. The diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar threatens to split the Islah party, which receives support from Qatar. Islah party leaders support Saudi Arabia, but many party members remain loyal to Qatar. Islah party members expressed concern that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will take a harder line against Islamist political parties in Yemen. Bin Salman reportedly played a key role in orchestrating Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic break with Qatar.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) targeting the Waberi district police station in Mogadishu on June 22. The attack killed eight people and wounded several others. The attack marks the third SVBIED attack in the capital in eight days. Al Shabaab militants conducted SVBIED attacks on the Wadajir district headquarters in Mogadishu on June 20 and the Posh Hotel on June 15.[7]  

Mudug regional police warned of potential al Shabaab attacks in Galkayo, Mudug region, central Somalia on June 22. Mudug police deployed forces to Galkayo after receiving information regarding planned bombings in the city. The warning follows the signing of a peace agreement on June 21 that ended clashes between forces loyal to the Puntland and Galmudug administrations in Galkayo. Control over Galkayo is divided between the two administrations.[8] 

Local security forces conducted a joint security operation with Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers in Burhakaba town, Bay region, southern Somalia on June 22. Security forces surrounded towns near Burhakaba and raided the homes of suspected criminals. Security officers arrested a number of civilians. Security forces have not clarified the purpose of the operation.[9] 

Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers clashed with Warsheikh security officers in Warsheikh, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on June 22. The clashes follow a disagreement between the two security forces over the management of a checkpoint near the town on June 21. The clashes killed one Warsheikh officer and injured a number of soldiers on both sides.[10] 

Frontier Services Group (FSG), an investment holding company owned by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, announced it will provide logistical, aviation, and security support for development projects in southwestern Somalia on June 22. The president of the semi-autonomous South West State, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, stated that the development project is an attempt to increase local and foreign investment to the region.[11]

[1] “In Yemen’s secret prisons, UAE tortures and US interrogates,” Associated Press, June 22, 2017,
[2] “Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Prince of Chaos,” Middle East Eye, June 21, 2017,; and “Yemeni president sacks prime minister, appoints new senior team: state media,” Reuters, April 3, 2016,
[3] AQAP Killed three al Houthis in an attack against Hope Hospital, Telegram, June 21, 2017, Combing al Houthi-Saleh positions with the participation of the tribes, Telegram, June 22, 2017; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 20, 2017,
[4] Fourth episode (be careful in raising children), Telegram, June 21, 2017; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 19, 2017,
[5] "Yemeni missile strikes Saudi Jizan province,” Al Masdar News, June 22, 2017,; and “Borkan-2 Ballistic Missile Launched towards Saudi Capital Riyadh in an Attack the Third of its Kind,” Al Masirah, May 19, 2017,
[6] “Change in Saudi Arabia undermines the influence of the Islah Party in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, June 21, 2017,; “Islah party comes back to political activity in Aden after a two-year hiatus,” Aden Tomorrow, June 22, 2017,; “Gulf rift sends tremors through Yemen,” Al Monitor, June 16, 2017,; and “New assertive generation of Gulf leaders at heart of Qatar rift,” Reuters, June 19, 2017,
[7] “Somalia: Car bomb hits Police station in Mogadishu,” Garowe Online, June 22, 2017,
[8] “Imminent attack predicted in Galkayo,” Goobjoog News, June 22, 2017,
[9] “Joint security sweep in Burkhaba by Southwest and Ethiopian troops,” Goobjoog News, June 22, 2017,
[10] “Clashes in Warsheikh Town,” Goobjoog News, June 22, 2017,
[11] George Obulutsa, “Blackwater founder's FSG signs security deal with Somali region,” Reuters, June 22, 2017,

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