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 kill dozens at AQAP training camp west of al Mukalla, Hadramawt; al Houthi-Saleh forces retake positions in western Taiz city; coalition-backed forces claim advances in Shabwah governorate

Horn of Africa: PDF kills 10 al Shabaab fighters in Gara’ad, Mudug region; Somali Prime Minister visits Beledweyne, Hiiraan region to mediate state formation talks; SNA commander denies that al Shabaab controls Laanta Buuro town; ASWJ forces arrests five murder suspects in Mataban, Hiiraan region

Yemen Security Brief

  • U.S. airstrikes killed dozens at an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) training camp west of al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate on March 22. The former Yemeni military base hosted more than 70 AQAP militants, according to a Pentagon statement. Local sources reported at least 50 killed and 30 wounded. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that the attack demonstrates the United States’ commitment to defeating al Qaeda and denying it sanctuary. The March 22 strikes incurred high casualties compared to recent U.S. airstrikes in Yemen, which have targeted key leaders and small groups of militants, often traveling by car. U.S. airstrikes killed AQAP emir Nasser al Wahayshi in June 2015 and senior field commander Jalal al Bal’idi al Marqishi on February 3.[1]
  • Al Houthi forces and allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh reclaimed positions in southwestern Taiz city on March 22. Al Houthi-Saleh fighters reportedly seized parts of al Dhabab and cut off anti-al Houthi forces from a main road that connects Taiz to Yemen’s southern coast. Local coalition-backed militias and forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi captured large swathes of western Taiz city on March 11, and al Houthi-Saleh forces have since launched a series of counterattacks aimed at retaking strategic sites in the area.[2]
  • Coalition-backed forces continue to claim victories in southern Ma’rib and northern Shabwah governorates, reportedly taking control of al Safra’ east of Bayhan in northwest Shabwah. The advance follows days of fighting along the Ma’rib-Shabwah border, with coalition-backed forces claiming control of Harib and Usaylan districts and converging on Bayhan, a small but strategically located city along one of Shabwah’s primary roadways.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Puntland Defense Forces (PDF) reportedly killed 10 al Shabaab militants in a skirmish near Gara’ad village in Somalia’s Mudug region on March 23. Puntland officials had announced the end of offensive operations targeting al Shabaab on March 20, following a week of clashes with militants who entered Puntland by boat on March 14. Approximately 100 al Shabaab militants are still active in Puntland’s Nugaal region, according to reports.[4]
  • Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke held talksin Beledweyne in Somalia’s Hiiraan region on March 23 to advance the state formation process between the Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions.  Earlier talks, held in Jowhar on March 7, broke down due to disagreements over the distribution of the proposed state’s delegates in the Somali Federal Government (SFG). The unification of Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions would result in the fourth federal state established in southern Somalia since the SFG took power in August 2012.[5]
  • The commander of the Somali National Army (SNA) Fifth Brigade, Abdullahi Ali Warsame, denied claims that al Shabaab militants fully control the town of Laanta Buuro in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. Al Shabaab raided an SNA outpost in the town on March 20, during which they captured at least five military trucks and large stores of ammunition. Warsame acknowledged the raid and the theft of three trucks but reiterated that the militants retreated from the outpost following the attack.[6]
  • Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama’a (ASWJ) forces arrested five suspects in a murder case in Mataban town in central Somalia’s Hiiraan region on March 23. The suspects are accused of murdering an ASWJ military official who had been attempting to diffuse tensions between local clans in Mataban. ASWJ is a Sufi Islamist paramilitary group that contests SFG control in parts of Hiiraan and Galgudud regions.[7]
[1] “Strikes kill at least 50 at Qaeda Yemen camp: medics, official,” Reuters, March 23, 2016,; and “Yemen conflict: US air strike 'kills many al-Qaeda fighters,'” BBC, March 23, 2016,
[2] “Al Houthis cut off strategic road in al Dhabab and renew siege of Taiz city – photo,” Barakish, March 22, 2016,
[3] “Shabwah..The resistance announces liberation of the site of al Safra’ east of Bayhan,” Barakish, March 22, 2016,
[4] “At least 10 militants killed near Gara’ad – governor,” Shabelle News, March 23, 2016,
[5] “Somali PM in talks with elders in Beledweyne city,” Shabelle News, March 23, 2016,; “Hiiraan elders declare new conditions on state formation conference as PM intervenes in talks,” Goobjoog News, March 23, 2016,
[6] “Govt denies Al shabaab in control of Lanta Buro area,” Shabelle News, March 23, 2016,
[7] “Five arrested in Mataban town over murder case,” Shabelle News, March 23, 2016,  
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