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 two AQAP militants in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen; Saudi Deputy Crown Prince meets with President Trump; Iranian Navy rotates destroyers in Gulf of Aden; Hadi-allied forces advance frontline in northern Sa’ada governorate

Horn of Africa: UK Foreign Secretary meets Somali President in Mogadishu; suspected al Shabaab gunman kills clan elder in Mogadishu; Kenyan President gives State of the Nation speech; Puntland Security Forces stage troops to reclaim pirated ship held in Alula town

Yemen Security Brief

 A reported U.S. airstrike killed two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on March 14. The airstrike killed Jandal Hadrami and Abu Hashem al Sharuri in al Abr district, western Hadramawt, near the border with Shabwah governorate. An AQAP media outlet characterized the two as poets. This airstrike is the third U.S. strike targeting AQAP in Yemen in one week, following the U.S. bombardment between March 2 and 6.[1]

Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. on March 14. President Trump extended the meeting into an unscheduled lunch, during which they reportedly discussed the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen. An advisor to bin Salman told Arabic-language press that both men agreed on the danger of “Iranian expansionist efforts” in the Middle East. President Trump is considering increased U.S. involvement in the Yemen crisis as well as the resumption of precision guided missile sales to Saudi Arabia, a deal blocked by President Obama in 2016.[2]

The Iranian Navy rotated a destroyer and a support vessel into the Bab al Mandab Strait on March 13. The“45 Group” deployed on a mission to protect Iranian merchant vessels traveling from ports in Oman through the Gulf of Aden, Bab al Mandeb Strait, and Red Sea. The Iranian Navy’s “44 Group” returned from patrolling the same region on March 5. The Iranian Navy reported that the 44 Group intercepted a number of attempted Somali pirate attacks on Iranian merchant vessels on February 13. Iran has worked alongside the Combined Task Force to combat Somali piracy since November 2008.[3]

Sa’ada governor Hadi Tershan al Waili claimed that forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi seized al ‘Alib mountain range overlooking western al Kitaf village, Sa’ada governorate from al Houthi-Saleh forces. This seizure marks a renewed effort by Hadi government forces to control terrain along Saudi Arabia’s southern border. Kitaf lies along the main road to the al Houthi-Saleh-controlled provincial capital of Sa’ada.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in Mogadishu on March 15. Johnson and Farmajo discussed security and the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, focusing on the distribution of humanitarian aid. Johnson vowed that Britain would pledge an additional dollar for every dollar donated by other countries in the next week. Britain pledged $125 million in emergency aid to Somalia on February 22.[5]

Suspected al Shabaab militants assassinated a clan elder in Mogadishu’s Bakara market on March 14. The elder participated in the recent parliamentary electoral process. Al Shabaab has assassinated a series of officials and elders in Mogadishu in recent months as part of a campaign to discourage Somalis from participating in the government.[6]

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed Kenya in his State of the Nation speech on March 14. Kenyatta claimed that Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) are crucial for the success of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Kenyatta also claimed his administration degraded al Shabaab’s ability to conduct attacks inside of Kenya by investing heavily in the infrastructure of the border region. Kenyatta will run for reelection in August 2017 and is facing a steep challenge from opposition parties who are critical of his position on al Shabaab.[7]

Puntland Security Forces are staging for an operation to reclaim a ship seized by Somali pirates on March 14. Puntland Security Forces announced it will raid Alula town in northern Puntland on March 16 to reclaim the ship from pirates, who are reportedly demanding a ransom. Pirates seized a UAE-flagged cargo ship carrying oil of the coast of Puntland on March 14, the first hijacking of a major ship in nearly five years.[8]

[1] AQAP reports on the death of two poets in Hadramawt, Telegram, March 14-15, 2017; and “The deaths of two members of the al-Qaeda from US strike in Hadramout,” Barakish, March 14, 2017,
[2]Yara Bayoumy, Jeff Mason and Warren Strobel, “Saudi deputy crown prince, Trump meeting a 'turning point': Saudi adviser,” Reuters, March 14, 2017,; Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Meets Saudi Prince as U.S. and Kingdom Seek Warmer Relations,” The New York Times, March 14, 2017,;  “Bin Salman to Trump: the nuclear deal with Iran is bad and very dangerous to the region,” Aden Tomorrow, March 15, 2017,
[3] “Two Iranian Warships enter Gulf of Aden,” Tehran Times, March 13, 2017,; “Navy thwarts pirate attack on Iranian vessel,” Mehr News, February 13, 2017,; and “Iranian Navy emphasizes security in Bab el-Mandeb, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea,” Tehran Times, February 12, 2017,
[4] “Sa’ada governor: Army leads in Sa’ada, killing 20 al Houthi soldiers,” Aden Tomorrow, March 15, 2017,
[5] Abdi Guled, “Boris Johnson in Somalia for surprise visit amid drought,” ABC News, March 15, 2017,; “Boris Johnson makes a surprise visit to Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, March 15, 2017,; and Maher Farrukh, Jordan Indermuehle, and Tyler Nocita, “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” February 22, 2017, Critical Threats,
[6]“Gunmen kill Somali Elder involved in Election,” Shabelle News, March 14, 2017
[7] “It has been 4 years of change, says President Kenyatta,” Daily Nation, March 15, 2017,
[8] “Puntland to send forces to free hijacked vessel as fears of piracy return abound,” Goobjoog, March 15, 2017,; and Ethan Beaudoin, Maher Farrukh, and Tyler Nocita, “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” March 14, 2017,

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