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 AQAP commander in Abyan governorate; Emirati-trained “Sons of Mokha” join combat operations against al Houthi-Saleh forces in western Yemen; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda releases pictures of training camp

Horn of Africa: Severe drought conditions displace one million Somalis

Yemen Security Brief

A reported U.S. airstrike targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on March 31. The strike killed local AQAP commander Abu Abidu al Dhamji and two other militants in al Wadi’a district, central Abyan governorate. The U.S. conducted six to eight strikes targeting AQAP in one week. The Trump administration designated Shabwah, Abyan, and al Bayda governorates as areas of active hostilities in early 2017, enabling the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes against AQAP with less oversight from the White House.[1]

The first group of pro-Hadi government fighters from Mokha district in western Taiz governorate completed their training on March 30. The fighters will join Hadi government forces in an ongoing offensive to seize al Hudaydah port from the al Houthi-Saleh bloc. Emirati advisors trained the “Sons of Mokha” at Assab military base in southern Eritrea. Hadi government forces claimed to advance toward the border of Khawkah district in southern al Hudaydah governorate on March 30. Hadi government forces expelled al Houthi-Saleh forces from Mokha city on February 10 but have not seized the entirety of Mokha district from al Houthi-Saleh forces.[2]

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda released a photoset showing its militants training at Camp Abu Mohammad al Furqan in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen, on March 30. The pictures featured roughly a dozen militants undergoing “fitness, hand-to-hand combat, assassination, weapon disarming, military, [and] sniper” training.  Abu Mohammad al Furqan was the head of ISIS’s propaganda wing until a U.S. airstrike kill him in Syria in October 2016. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed seven attacks targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in western al Bayda governorate in March 2017.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Severe drought conditions have displaced more than one million people within Somalia. Nearly 800,000 people have fled their homes in the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland in northern Somalia. Puntland State officials said that drought has killed 70 percent of livestock in the state. The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that at least 3,000 Somalis flee their homes every day. Al Shabaab claimed to distribute emergency food and water aid to thousands of families in rural parts of south and central Somalia over the last month. Al Shabaab could expand territorial control in the countryside in the absence of humanitarian assistance from the Somali Federal Government or international community.[4]

[1] Mohammed Mukkashaf, “Three suspected al Qaeda members killed in Yemen drone strike,” Reuters, March 31, 2017,; and “Unmanned aircraft bombed a house of an al Qaeda leader and a car in Abyan,” Barakish, March 31, 2017,
[2] “Officials: the first batch of trained “Sons of Mokha” join the army,” Aden Tomorrow, March 30, 2017,; “Forces of the sons of Mokha organize an army,” Barakish, March 30, 2017,; “The UAE Joins an Exclusive Club,” Stratfor, December 8, 2016,; “The battle of Mokha ends as rebels are expelled,” Aden Lange, February 10, 2017,; and “Government forces control farms in Mokha after battles against the Houthis,” al Masdar, March 30, 2017,
[3] “Yemen: Islamic State published pictures of a training camp for fighter in al Bayda,” Dawaal Haq, March 30, 2017.
[4] “Drought displaces over a million people in Somalia,” Goobjoog News, March 31, 2017,; and “Drought displacing 3,000 people daily in Somalia,” Goobjoog News, March 30, 2017,
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