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 eight suspected AQAP militants in Hadramawt governorate; U.S. commanders report significant use of laser technology in western Yemen; Emirati-backed forces kill security officer in Abyan governorate; Emirati-backed forces raid militant strongholds in Aden

Horn of Africa: U.S. designates two al Shabaab commanders; Kenyan President and opposition leader meet in Nairobi

Yemen Security Brief

A reported U.S. airstrike killed eight suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from the al Hashama tribe in al ‘Abr district, northwestern Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on March 9. A U.S. airstrike killed four AQAP militants from the same tribe in al ‘Abr district on March 5.[1] 

Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller reported that western Yemen “is kind of a live-fire laboratory” for offensive and defensive laser systems during a congressional budget hearing on March 7. Neller noted there is “a lot of activity going on” to shoot down or break the link of unmanned aircraft systems in the area.[2]

Troops from the Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces clashed amongst themselves in al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on March 9, according to local sources. Officer Salem Mohim and one other soldier died in the clashes. It is unclear what caused the clashes. Al Hizam Security Forces are conducting an operation in al Mahfad to clear AQAP from strongholds in the area. [3]

Emirati-back al Hizam Security Forces raided militant strongholds in the Amr al Mukhtar neighborhood, Sheikh Othman district, Aden on March 9. Al Hizam Security Forces arrested a likely ISIS assassination network in Sheikh Othman on March 6. AQAP and ISIS both operate in the city.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The U.S. Department of State designated two al Shabaab commanders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order 13224 on March 8. The U.S. designated Ahmad Iman Ali and Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi for leading al Shabaab attacks in Kenya. Ali has served as al Shabaab’s leader in Kenya since 2012 and has overseen attacks on Kenya’s African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) contingent in Kenya and Somalia. Ali also masterminded the al Shabaab attack on Kenyan Defense Forces that killed about 150 soldiers in El Adde, Gedo region, southwestern Somalia in January 2016. Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi was involved in an attack that killed more than 50 people in Mpeketoni, Lamu county, eastern Kenya in June 2014.[5] 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition leader Raila Odinga met at Harambee House, Nairobi on March 9. Kenyatta and Odinga pledged to begin a process of reconciliation to overcome the challenges of Kenya’s ethnic diversity. Leaders from NASA said they were not aware of the meeting between Kenyatta and Odinga but advocated for dialogue between the opposition and ruling party. Opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna, whom the Kenyatta administration recently attempted to deport, accused Odinga of betraying his supporters by meeting with Kenyatta. Odinga conducted a symbolic inauguration to challenge the legitimacy of Kenyatta on January 30. Kenyan authorities cracked down on media coverage and opposition figures in the following weeks. The meeting between Kenyatta and Odinga coincides with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s arrival in Kenya on March 9.[6]

[1] “Eight tribesmen killed in a U.S. raid in al Abr area in Hadramawt,” Aden Lang, March 9, 2018,; and “Eight Tribesmen killed in an air strike by an unmanned aerial vehicle in Hadramawt,” Al Masdar, March 8, 2018,
[2] “Hearing FY19 - Navy and Marine Corps Budget (EventID=106932),” Youtube, March 7, 2018,; and “Yemen coast a ‘live fire laboratory’ for firing lasers,” Marine Corps Times, March 8, 2018,
[3] “Breaking: Al Mahfad, a leader of the Hizam Security Forces was shot dead by soldiers after clashes,” Aden Tomorrow, March 9, 2018,; and “Two soldiers killed, including the commander of the Hizam Security Forces in Mahfad district in Abyan,” Aden Lang, MArch 9, 2018,
[4] “Breaking: Security forces deployed in Sheikh Othman and Amr al Mukhtar and explosions,” Aden Tomorrow, March 9, 2018,; and “Breaking: Clashes and explosions shake Sheikh Osman,” Aden Lang, March 9, 2018,
[5] “State Department Terrorist Designations of Ahmad Iman Ali and Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi,” U.S. State Department, March 8, 2018,; and “U.S. places two Al-Shabaab militants on terrorist list,” Hiiraan Online, March 9, 2018,
[6] “New dawn: Uhuru and Raila resolve to work together to heal Kenya,” The Star, March 9, 2018,; “Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga pledge reconciliation,” BBC, March 9, 2018,; “We weren't aware of Uhuru-Raila meet, says NASA co-principals,” The Star, March 9, 2018,; “‘Raila has betrayed his supporters,’ says Miguna,” Citizen TV, March 9, 2018,; “End of Kenya’s political stalemate in sight as top leaders meet,” Goobjoog, March 9, 2018,; and “Security beefed up in Nairobi ahead of Tillerson arrival,” Standard Media, March 9, 2018,

View Citations
Arrow down red
Apr '18
Mar '18
Feb '18