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. airstrikes target AQAP militants in al Bayda, Abyan, and Shabwah governorates; AQAP and AQIM release joint statement eulogizing al Qaeda deputy leader; Hadi government forces announce new offensive in Hajjah governorate, northern Yemen; AQAP and ISIS clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate; UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs meets with al Houthi-Saleh Supreme Political Council president in Sana’a city

Horn of Africa: KDF forces conduct ground and air attack against al Shabaab militants near Afmadow, Lower Jubba region; KDF airstrikes target multiple al Shabaab positions in Gedo region

Yemen Security Brief  

U.S. airstrikes targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen and Abyan and Shabwah governorates, southern Yemen, on March 2. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis confirmed that the U.S. conducted more than twenty airstrikes targeting AQAP militants, equipment, and infrastructure. The U.S. conducted the strikes in partnership with the Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Yemeni officials stated that the U.S. struck six different districts across the three governorates. One airstrike hit AQAP militants transporting weapons in central Abyan, south of Lawder district. Another strike targeted the home of an AQAP-affiliated tribal leader in Yakal village, al Bayda, near the site of the U.S. raid on an AQAP headquarters on January 29. The strike did not cause any casualties, according to local reports. Residents also reported multiple airstrikes in al Sawmah district, southern al Bayda governorate. An airstrike in Shabwah governorate killed four AQAP militants in al Sa’id district near the border of Abyan. These airstrikes are the first actions taken by the U.S. against AQAP since the January 29 raid.[1]

AQAP released a joint statement with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on March 2 eulogizing Abu al Khayr al Masri, the deputy leader of al Qaeda. A U.S. airstrike killed al Masri in Idlib, northwestern Syria, on February 26. AQAP and AQIM released a similar joint statement on February 21 to eulogize the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman. Abdul Rahman, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, died of natural causes in an American prison on February 18. The joint statement on Abdul Rahman’s death also called for retaliatory attacks on U.S. targets.[2]

The Hadi government’s Fifth Military Region Commander announced a new joint offensive against al Houthi-Saleh forces in northwestern Hajjah governorate. Brigadier General Amir Jawher stated that the Saudi-led coalition, Hadi government forces, and tribal allies will attempt to seize Midi and Abs districts, northwestern Hajjah governorate, in coordination with Operation Golden Spear. Hadi government and allied forces participating in Operation Golden Spear are attempting to advance northward from the Bab al Mandab Strait and seize strategic positions along Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.[3]

AQAP and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda continue to clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen. AQAP militants repelled an al Houthi-Saleh attack on Hamat al Hassam village, northwestern al Bayda governorate on March 2. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack on nearby Laqah village on March 1. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda, AQAP, and local tribal militias claimed to seize Laqah on February 24. AQAP ambushed al Houthi-Saleh forces in Hamat Sarar, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on February 28. AQAP claimed to kill seven al Houthi-Saleh troops in the ambush. AQAP claimed to seize Hamat Sarar on February 20. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to arrest an AQAP commander in Rada’a district, western al Bayda on March 2.[4]

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien met with al Houthi-Saleh Supreme Political Council president Saleh Ali al Samad in Sana’a on March 2. O’Brien told al Samad that a military solution in Yemen is not possible for either side. He also said that the Saudi-led coalition should lift its embargo on Sana’a airport to facilitate peace negotiations, according to a pro-Hadi government source. The meeting marked O’Brien’s final stop on a trip to survey the humanitarian crisis in Yemen which started on February 26.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief 

Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) conducted a ground and air attack against al Shabaab militants at a camp outside Afmadow town in Lower Jubba region in southern Somalia on March 2. The attack involved KDF ground forces along with artillery fire and helicopter gunships. KDF spokesman Colonel Joseph Owuoth claimed that KDF forces killed 57 al Shabaab militants. KDF officials have stated their commitment to fighting al Shabaab in Somalia and securing regions along the Kenya-Somalia border. Some Kenyan parliamentarians have called for KDF forces to withdraw from Somalia due to increased casualties. Al Shabaab has intensified ambush attacks and mass-casualty raids on KDF positions in Lower Jubba region in the past month.[6]

KDF air forces conducted multiple airstrikes targeting al Shabaab camps and a convoy in Gedo region in southwestern Somalia on February 28. KDF jets targeted an al Shabaab camp near El Adde, between Elwaq and Busar towns near the Kenya-Somalia border. KDF jets also targeted a convoy of al Shabaab vehicles traveling to El Adde, the site of a mass-casualty al Shabaab raid against KDF forces in January 2016. Osman Nuh Hajji, the deputy governor of Gedo region, confirmed that the airstrikes killed several al Shabaab militants and commanders. Gedo region officials announced an operation last week to clear main roads and areas controlled by al Shabaab. KDF officials have also committed to retaliate for recent attacks against KDF forces in southern Somalia.[7]

[1] Eric Schmitt, “Airstrikes Are Said to Target Al Qaeda in Yemen,” New York Times, March 2, 2017,; Ahmed al Haj, “Series of US airstrikes target al-Qaida positions in Yemen,” AP, March 2, 2017,; “It killed four al Qaeda members to an American air strike aircraft in Sa’id directorate Shabwa province,” al Masdar, March 2, 2017,; “Source: US fighter jets launched more than 30 raid on the  al Sawmah Directorate al Bayda governorate,” al Masdar, March 2, 2017,; “Details airstrike targeted a vehicle of the base Abyan,” Aden Lang, March 2, 2017,; “US aircraft bombed a house «Elah gold» in al Bayda...Yakal, no casualties,” al Masdar, March 2, 2017,; and “U.S. military launches more than 20 strikes on al Qaeda in Yemen,” Reuters, March 2, 2017,
[2] “AQAP and AQIM Eulogize Zawahiri deputy Abu al Khayr al Masri,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 2, 2017, available by subscription to
[3] “Military commander: a large military formation will take part in the liberation of the coast of Tihama,” Aden Tomorrow, March 2, 2017,
[4] AQAP claimed its militants killed seven al Houthi-Saleh troops in an ambush in Hamat Sarar, al Bayda, Telegram, March 1, 2017; and AQAP claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack in Hamat al Hasam, al Bayda, Telegram, March 2, 2017; “The arrest of one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda terrorist Directorate Rada’a in al Bayda,” Saba News, March 2, 2017,; and “IS division in Yemen reports thwarting Houthi advance attempt on position in Qifa, publishes photos from clash,” March 1, 2017, available by subscription at 
[5] “President of the Supreme Political Council will meet Under-Secretary-General of the UN for Humanitarian Affairs,” Sabanews, March 2, 2017,; and “O’Brien meets with al Samad before leaving Sana’a for Djibouti,” al Masdar, March 2, 2017,
[6] Cyrus Ombati, “KDF personnel kill 57 al Shabaab terrorists at clash in Somalia,” The Standard, March 2, 2017,; and “Uhuru urged to withdraw KDF soldiers from Somalia,” Shabelle News, February 5, 2017,
[7] “KDF jets carry out airstrikes in southern Somalia,” Garowe Online, March 1, 2017,; and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Local Administration in Gedo Region Vows to Root Out al Shabaab from the Region,” Strategic Intelligence Service, February 24, 2017,
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