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: Southern Transitional Political Council rejects President Hadi’s government dismissals; AQAP releases ideological videos; fighting continues near Yemeni-Saudi border; Aden counterterrorism team arrests rogue soldiers

Horn of Africa: UN Security Council votes to withdraw peacekeeping troops from Darfur, Sudan; AMISOM briefly seizes Janale town, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab attacks AMISOM troops in Mogadishu; new U.S. SOCAFRICA commander named; Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta maintains lead in re-election bid

Yemen Security Brief

Transitional Political Council for the South President Adayrus al Zubaidi criticized internationally recognized Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi for marginalizing southern leadership by replacing the Hadramawt, Shabwah and Socotra governors in a June 29 statement. The Emirati-backed council rivals the authority of the Hadi government in southern Yemen. Al Zubaidi called on southerners to organize in Aden city on July 7, the anniversary of the south’s failed 1994 war of succession, to advocate for southern independence. The Southern Movement in Shabwah governorate also condemned the decision and called for a meeting in Ataq city, central Shabwah, on June 1. Prominent southern politician Saleh al Jabwani praised President Hadi’s decision to remove southern governors affiliated with the Transitional Political Council for the South, calling it a step in the right direction.[1] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) spokesman Khaled Batarfi released the eighth video in his series “Stories of the Prophets” on June 30. Batarfi urged his followers to find strength from obeying God. Batarfi has released eight theological videos in the past two weeks. AQAP also released a nashid (chant) titled “Experts of the Coalition” that frames the Saudi-led coalition as a war against Islam.[2]

Fighting persisted on the Yemeni-Saudi border between the Saudi-led coalition and al Houthi-Saleh forces. Al Houthi-Saleh forces shelled residential neighborhoods and coalition positions in Najran region, southwestern Saudi Arabia. Al Houthi-Saleh fighters shelled a hospital in Najran region on June 30, injuring two civilians. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire a Katyusha rocket on a coalition camp in Najran on June 29, killing one soldier. Hadi government-aligned ground forces killed 14 al Houthi-Saleh fighters, including four commanders, in Hayran district, central Hajjah governorate, northwest Yemen on June 29. Hadi government-aligned forces seized an al Houthi-Saleh weapons store in the attack.[3]

Members of Aden’s counterterrorism team assaulted and detained traffic officers in Aden city on June 29. A widely circulated video of the incident depicts the soldiers forcing the traffic officers to lie down on the street before taking them to an unknown area. A commander in Aden’s counterterrorism unit announced that the soldiers were relieved from their duty, denied pay, and sentenced to four months imprisonment on June 29.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The United Nations Security Council voted to withdraw gradually over 4,000 peacekeeping troops serving in the joint UN-African Union (AU) mission in Darfur region, Sudan on June 29. The UN-AU peacekeeping footprint will decrease from 15,485 troops to a maximum of 11,395.  The resolution also cuts the maximum UN-AU police presence from 3,403 officers to 2,888. The withdrawal is expected to begin in early 2018, pending the Sudanese government’s cooperation on security measures. The UNSC added that if the Sudanese government is cooperative, the UN will further decrease its peacekeeping presence to 8,735 troops and 2,500 police officers. The UNSC requested UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the African Union to submit an assessment to guide the drawdown by January 1, 2018. The conflict in Darfur began after non-Arab tribes clashed with Sudan’s Arab-led government in 2003. Over 300,000 people have died in the conflict.[5]

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers raided an al Shabaab stronghold in Janale town, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on June 30. AMISOM soldiers seized the town from al Shabaab, but retreated soon after. Al Shabaab reclaimed Janale town after the AMISOM retreat.[6]

Al Shabaab detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) targeting Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Militants detonated the VBIED along the highway connecting Mogadishu to Agofoi. The attack killed Major Ismail Danab and wounded another SNA soldier. Al Shabaab also detonated an IED targeting an AMISOM convoy in Mogadishu on June 30.[7]

U.S. Air Force Major General Mark Hicks took command of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) on June 29. Major General Hicks will oversee U.S. special operations targeting al Shabaab in Somalia, alongside AFRICOM’s efforts to train SNA and AMISOM troops. Major General Hicks previously served as the Chief of Staff at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Headquarters. Brigadier General Donald Bolduc will retire after 32 years of military service.[8] 

Incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta maintains a five percent lead over former Prime Minister Ralia Odinga ahead of Kenya’s presidential election on August 8, according to a poll conducted by Infotrak. Uhuru Kenyatta held a nine percent lead over Ralia Odinga in mid-May. Infotrack conducted the survey from a sample of 2,000 Kenyans in 29 voting districts from June 24 to 25. Al Shabaab conducts attacks along the Kenyan-Somali border in an attempt to degrade Uhuru Kenyatta’s popular support in the country. Kenyatta has frequently advocated for an AMISOM surge in Somalia to combat al Shabaab.[9]

[1] “Transitional Political Council for the South Announces its Rejection of Hadi's Decision and Calls for a New March,” Aden Tomorrow, June 30, 2017,; “The Southern Movement of Shabwa threatens escalating measures in response to the decision to sack the governor,” Aden Tomorrow, June 29, 2017,; and “Hadi’s decisions are a step in the right direction,” Aden Tomorrow, June 30, 2017,
[2] AQAP releases the eighth video in “Stories of the Prophets” series,Telegram, June 30, 2017; and Experts of the Coalition, Telegram, June 30, 2017.
[3] “Saudi Arabia: Houthis fire projectiles on neighborhoods and hospitals in Najran,” Aden Tomorrow, June 30, 2017,; Saudi soldier killed in battles with al Houthis on the border with Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, June 30, 2017,; “Four al Houthi-Saleh Fighters Killed in Hajjah Battles,” Yemen Akhbar, June 30, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threat Project, June 20, 2017,
[4] “A painful video of gunmen in Aden insulting traffic officers and forcing them to lie down,” Barakish, June 29, 2017,; and “Actions taken by the leader of the anti-terrorism team in Aden against the attackers of the traffic men,” Aden Lange, June 29, 2017,
[5] “U.N. approves drawdown of peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region,” Goobjoog, June 30, 2017,
[6] Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 30, 2017,
[7] Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 30, 2017,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 30,
[8] “US special operators in Africa get new boss,” Stars and Stripes, June 29, 2017,
[9] “Uhuru Kenyatta leads Raila Odinga with 5 points in new poll,” Daily Nation, June 30, 2017,; and “Raila closing in on Uhuru - poll,” Daily Nation, May 18, 2017,

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