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 four suspected AQAP militants in Shabwah; Ansar al Sharia publicizes multi-day preaching festival in al Mukalla, Hadramawt; gunmen assassinate Abyan popular resistance leader in Aden; militants kill at least 15 at home for the elderly in Aden; President Hadi promotes Aden security chief

Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants shell AMISOM base in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab provides medical and agricultural aid to civilians near el Adde, Gedo region; Somali police arrest clan elder for suspected al Shabaab ties in Hiraale, Hiiraan region; Hudur District Commissioner announces operations to clear al Shabaab roadblocks in Bakool region

Yemen Security Brief

  • A reported U.S. airstrike killed four suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants on the main highway in Rudum district, Shabwah governorate on March 4. Local sources reported AQAP pamphlets scattered at the site of the attack.[1]
  • Ansar al Sharia, AQAP’s insurgent arm, held a multi-day preaching festival in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate beginning on March 2. The event, titled  “O Aqsa, We Are Coming” in reference to the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, was attended by large crowds, including children and young men, and included a competition for prizes like motorbikes and refrigerators, according to photos posted by pro-Ansar al Sharia media outlet Wikalat al Athir. Ansar al Sharia officials gave speeches and aired recordings of top AQAP senior official Khalid Batarfi. The festival is Ansar al Sharia’s latest effort to generate popular support in al Mukalla through outreach, public works projects, and media campaigns.[2]
  • Gunmen assassinated Hussein al Wahayshi, a popular resistance leader from Abyan governorate, and his brother in a drive-by shooting in Aden on March 3. Al Wahayshi reportedly served as an assistant to the head of the Abyan popular resistance, Abdul Latif al Sayyed. The gunmen are likely affiliated with AQAP, which has targeted Abyani popular resistance leaders in recent months, especially associates of al Sayyed.[3]
  • Militants opened fire on a home for the elderly in Aden on March 4, killing at least 15. Casualties included six foreigners, among them four Christian nuns from India. No group has claimed credit for the attack.[4]
  • Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi promoted Aden security chief Shalal Ali Shaye’a to the rank of Brigadier General on February 20. President Hadi has promoted multiple security officials in recent weeks, likely in an effort to build a patronage network and stabilize his regime. Shaye’a has ties to Yemen’s Southern Movement, some factions of which are contesting Hadi’s rule in Aden.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Suspected al Shabaab militant launched mortars at an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base in Afgoi town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on March 3. Residents of the town, which is located on the outskirts of Mogadishu, claim that most of the shells missed their target and hit civilian areas nearby, wounding 11-13 people.  The AMISOM contingent returned mortar fire.[6]
  • Al Shabaab militants provided medical and agricultural aid to several villages in the Gedo and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia following the group’s January 15 attack on a Kenyan AMISOM base. The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) launched airstrikes on the area after the base attack, causing civilian casualties and damaging livestock. Al Shabaab militants later entered local villages to provide medical care and assist with irrigation. Al Shabaab uses humanitarian campaigns to drive local support for their cause.[7]
  • Somali police forces arrested a clan elder with suspected al Shabaab ties in Hiraale village, near Beledweyne in Hiiraan region on March 4. A police spokesman claimed that the elder was an operative for the militant group.[8]
  • Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM forces will begin to clear al Shabaab road blocks from major roads in the Bakool region, according to Hudur District Commissioner Mohamed Moalim. The operation aims to clear al Shabaab from the region and open the main roads between Bakool and Bay regions for humanitarian aid and commerce. [9]  
[1] “Drone kills four suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen,” Reuters, March 4, 2016,
“4 killed from among al Qaeda in Shabwah by drone,” Barakish, March 4, 2016,
[2] “AQAP-Linked Media Group Publicizes Preaching Event Held in al-Mukalla (Hadramawt),” SITE Intelligence Group, March 3, 2016, source available upon request.
Twitter, Wikalat al Athir, March 2-3, 2016,
[3] “Aden.. Gunmen assassinate Hussein al Wahayshi, the leader of the popular committees ‘loyal to the legitimacy’ in Abyan,” Al Masdar, March 3, 2016,
[4] “Gunmen kill at least 15 in old people's home in Yemen, including four nuns,” Reuters, March 4, 2016,
“13 people killed, among them six foreigners, in extremist militant attack on home for the elderly in Aden,” Al Masdar, March 4, 2016,
[5] “Hadi issues order promoting Major General Shalal Shaye’a to the rank of Brigadier General ‘the document,’” Yemen Journal, March 3, 2016,
Peter Salisbury, “Yemen’s Southern Intifada,” Foreign Policy, March 13, 2013,  
[6] “Eleven civilians injured in mortar barrage on Afgoye,” Shabelle News, March 4, 2016,
“Shell fire injures at least 13 in Afgooye,”Goobjoog News, March 4, 2016,
[7] “Al-Shabaab and AMISOM Continue Competition for Hearts and Minds,” Somalia Newsroom, March 3, 2016,
[8] “Police arrest elderly man linked to Al Shabaab,”Shabelle Newsm March 4, 2016,
[9] “Hudur administration vows to re-open blocked roads,” Googjoog News, March 4, 2016,  
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