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: AQAP religious scholar discusses obligation of jihad, condemns Saudi Arabia; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to attack Saudi-led coalition warship off Yemen’s western coast; Yemeni government forms commission to investigate torture accusations; Saudi Arabia pledges aid for cholera treatment

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab releases photos of Eid al Fitr celebrations in Middle Jubba and Galgudud regions; al Shabaab militants launch attacks along Kenyan-Somali border; ISIS-linked militants clash with villagers in Qandala town, Bari region; U.S. Department of State removes “Abu Mansur” from Rewards for Justice list; Somali Foreign Minister announces construction of Turkish military facility near Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Ibrahim al Banna, an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) religious scholar, called on Muslim religious scholars to show the umma, Muslim community, that it is a duty to undertake jihad and to condemn Saudi Arabia in a June 24 speech, “Congratulations and  Reminder,” released by AQAP’s al Malahem Foundation for the Eid al Fitr holiday. The U.S. designated Ibrahim al Banna, a former senior leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on January 5, 2017. AQAP’s senior spokesman Khaled Batarfi stressed the requirement to trust Allah and to be certain of one’s faith in the sixth video of his series, “Stories of the Prophets,” released through al Malahem on June 23. Finally, an AQAP video showed a June 12 attack against Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite forces in Daw’an area in eastern Hadramawt governorate. The 10-minute video, released through al Malahem on June 25, shows scenes of planning, satellite imagery, and briefing. AQAP released a two-minute video of this attack on June 14.[1]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to attack a Saudi-led coalition warship near the coast of Taiz, western Yemen, on June 25. They targeted Saudi-led coalition ships in the Red Sea previously with remote-controlled explosive boats and also with surface-to-ship guided missiles, also used against U.S. Navy vessels.  Al Houthi-Saleh forces last struck an Emirati ship with a surface-to-ship guided missile near the coast of Taiz on June 14. Al Houthi-Saleh media reported that forces fired a weapon from Mokha district in western Taiz governorate without describing what type of ordnance. The Saudi-led coalition has not commented on the attack.[2] 

The internationally recognized Yemeni government is taking steps to investigate allegations of torture and arbitrary detention in southern Yemen and to deploy forces to support offensive operations against al Houthi-Saleh forces in western Yemen. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghir formed a six-person committee under Justice Minister Mohammed Omar on June 24 to investigate alleged torture at detention sites in southern Yemen and to report findings in 15 days. Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces of torturing detainees on June 22. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government plans to deploy Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces from Aden to Mokha district in Taiz governorate to support the ongoing offensive against al Houthi-Saleh forces.[3]

Saudi Arabia pledged $66.7 million to UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and partner organizations to combat the spread of cholera in Yemen on June 23. A WHO press release characterized the crisis as the world’s worst cholera outbreak. The WHO reported on June 24 that cholera has caused 1,310 deaths and infected over 200,000 Yemenis since late April.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency distributed a photo set of its Eid al Fitr celebrations in Middle Jubba and Galgudud regions on June 25. The photos show al Shabaab militants praying alongside locals, children dressed as militants with fake weapons, and a military parade in areas under its control. Al Shabaab frequently asserts its governing authority by enforcing shari’a in its strongholds in central and southern Somalia. The group also released photos of its late leader Ahmed Abdi Godane (Mukhtar Abu Zubair), killed by a September 1, 2014 U.S. airstrike. These are the first photos to clearly portray Godane.[5] 

Al Shabaab militants assassinated a Somali National Army (SNA) officer in El Wak town along the Kenyan-Somali border on June 24. The militants raided Colonel Abdirashid Barre Gurhan’s home and shot him before fleeing the scene. Al Shabaab militants attacked an Equity Bank branch in El Wak, Mandera County, Kenya on June 23, killing two civilians and a Kenyan Police officer. Al Shabaab also detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Kenya’s Red Cross in El Wak on June 23.[6]

Reported Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) affiliated militants clashed with villagers near Qandala, Bari region, northern Somalia on June 24. The villagers killed five ISIS militants and suffered two casualties, according to local reports. An ISIS-affiliated militant detonated a suicide vest (SVEST) in Boosaaso, Bari region in northern Somalia on May 23, killing four people.[7]

The U.S. Department of State removed deputy leader of al Shabaab Sheikh Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur) from its Rewards for Justice List on June 23. The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service previously offered a $5 million bounty for Abu Mansur. The U.S. Department of State continues to list him as a specially designated global terrorist (SDGT), however. Abu Mansur commanded al Shabaab militants in Bay region and served as a spokesman and religious leader for the group. Abu Mansur may be engaged in negotiations with the Somali government following disputes within al Shabaab.[8]

The Somali Foreign Minister, Yusuf Garaad Omar, announced that Turkey will construct a military training camp near Mogadishu, Somalia on June 23. The training facility will host joint training sessions between the Turkish military and SNA forces. Turkey has also increased its military presence in Qatar amid a diplomatic rift between the Gulf States, toward which Somalia is maintaining neutrality. The United Arab Emirates is also constructing a military base in Berbera, Somaliland, northern Somalia.[9]

[1] Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, June 24, 2017,; “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 20, 2017,; “AQAP official regards ‘terrorism lists’ as evidence of U.S.-led war on Islam,” SITE Intelligence Group, June 15, 2017, available by subscription at; “AQAP religious scholar calls for jihad, condemnation of Saudi Arabia in Eid al Fitr speech,” SITE Intelligence Group, June 25, 2017, available by subscription at; Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, June 25, 2017,; “Demonstrating Heightened interest in Media Efforts, AQAP releases Video of Attack one day Prior in Hadramawt,” SITE Intelligence Group, June 14, 2017, available by subscription at; and “In Yemen’s secret prisons, UAE tortures and US interrogates,” Associated Press, June 22, 2017,
[2] “Al Houthis Claim to Target ‘Military Ship’ belonging to the Coalition off the Coast of al Mokha,” Al Masdar Online, June 26, 2017,; “By Suitable Weapon: Navy Announces Targeting of Enemy Ship off the coast of al Mokha, Taiz,” Al Masirah, June 25, 2017,; and “Yemen Situation Report,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, March 23, 2017,
[3] "Yemen orders probe into alleged torture by UAE,” Al Jazeera, June 24, 2017,; "Gulf of Aden Security Review," AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 22, 2017,; “Government Sources Reveal to Aden Tomorrow Details of a Plan to Move Several Military Camps from Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, June 26, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, June 26, 2017,; and “UAE builds up Yemen regional army but country fragments,” Reuters, May 3, 2017,
[4] “Saudi Arabia’s new Crown Prince gives $66.7 million in aid for cholera outbreak in Yemen,” Relief Web, June 23, 2017,; WHO Yemen, Twitter, June 24, 2017,; and “Yemen: cholera outbreak suspected cases exceeds 200 000,” World Health Organization, June 24, 2017,
[5] Al Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency distributes photo set of Eid al Fitr celebrations in Muddle Jubba and Galgudud, Telegram, January 25, 2017; and “Shabaab publishes photos of toy gun-toting children during Eid al-Fitr festivities, clams attacks on SNA forces,” June 25, 2017, available by subscription at 
[6] “Gunmen kill Somali army official in El Wak town,” Shabelle News, June 24, 2017,; and “Kenya blames Al shabaab for a deadly attack in Mandera County,” Shabelle News, June 23, 2017,
[7] Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 25, 2017,; and Critcal Threats Project, “Gulf Of Aden Security Review,” May 24, 2017,
[8] “Mukhtar Robow ‘Abu Mansoor’ pardoned by US government,” Goobjoog News, June 23, 2017,; and “US Drops Terror Reward for Somali Al-Shabab Leader,” Associated Press, June 23, 2017,
[9] “Turkey’s Military Training Camp in Somalia to Open Soon,” Anadolou Agency, June 23, 2017,

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