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. Department of Defense says U.S. military presence in Yemen will be short-term; UN-led joint committees begin meetings in Kuwait; Saudi-led coalition conducts airstrike on al Houthi-Saleh forces in Amran governorate following al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile launch toward Saudi Arabia; government military forces arrest Salafi leader in Hadramawt; government military forces claim to arrest 30 AQAP members and seize 20 VBIEDs in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate

Horn of Africa: SNA special operations forces raid al Shabaab meeting at Torotarow, Lower Shabelle with possible U.S. assistance; suspected al Shabaab militants kill airport official in Waberi District, Mogadishu; NISA seizes car with explosives near Somali Parliament building, Mogadishu; regional security forces find and clear IED in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region

Yemen Security Brief

  • U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Peter Cook said on May 9 that the deployment of U.S. military personnel in Yemen will be short-term. A withdrawal date for the troops has not been established, however. Cook said that U.S. troops deployed two weeks ago to assist Saudi and Emirati forces in recapturing al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate from AQAP militants on April 24. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit assault ship USS Boxer is providing medical support for UAE troops conducting offensive operations against AQAP in al Mukalla.[1]
  • Three UN-led joint committees began meetings in Kuwait on May 10. The committees draw members from both President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation and al Houthi and General People’s Congress (GPC) party delegation. The committees met on May 9 but made no progress, reportedly failing to follow discussion guidelines set by a Hadi official. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is now participating in each committee’s meetings to enforce discussion guidelines. The committees, formed on May 5, focus on political prisoners and prisoners of war, security and military measures, and political resolution, respectively.[2]
  • The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes targeting al Houthi forces and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh at a military camp in Amran governorate on May 9, killing 10 and wounding 15. The al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile from Yemen towards Saudi Arabia on May 9, citing coalition ceasefire breaches. Coalition forces intercepted the missile and claimed they would maintain the ceasefire but retain the right to respond to attacks.[3]
  • Coalition-backed government forces arrested a Salafi leader named Ahmed Bar’awd in Hadramawt governorate on May 10 and took him to coalition headquarters for interrogation. Bar’awd is a member of the Council of Sunni Scholars and al Jama’a in Hadramawt, which operated alongside the Hadhrami Domestic Council (HDC) in governing al Mukalla under the control of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Bar’awd was one of two members of the HDC that restructured the council after over half of its members resigned in December 2015 and January 2016. Government forces arrested Abdullah al Yazidi, the other member responsible for reconstituting the council, on May 9.[4]
  • Brigadier General of the Second Military District in Hadramawt Faraj Salman al Bahsani claimed on May 10 that government military forces arrested 30 AQAP members and found and cleared 20 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) in Hadramawt governorate in the last few days. Military forces conducted sweeps in al Mukalla, al Shihr and Ghayl Ba Wazir and seized AQAP weapons and documents, including lists of officials targeted for assassination. Al Bahsani stated that military forces seized at least four arms caches left behind by AQAP after coalition forces recaptured al Mukalla on April 24.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Somali National Army (SNA) special operations forces (SOF) raided an al Shabaab leadership meeting in Torotarow town, Lower Shabelle region on May 9. Foreign troops in helicopters, possibly U.S. advisors, supported the raid, according to al Shabaab and local sources. Al Shabaab claimed that its fighters repulsed the attack and may have arrested several civilians for espionage after the raid ended. The Pentagon has not confirmed the operation. U.S. SOF have supported SNA operations in Lower Shabelle several times since the beginning of 2016.[6]
  • Militants shot and killed an Aden Adde International Airport official outside a mosque in Wadajir District, Mogadishu on May 10. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Al Shabaab has conducted similar attacks in the past, however.[7]
  • Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officers seized a car loaded with explosives near the Somali Parliament building in Mogadishu on May 10. NISA did not arrest any suspects. Al Shabaab may have placed the car to conduct an attack on the parliament building, but this is not confirmed.[8]
  • Interim Jubbaland Administration (IJA) security forces disabled an improvised explosive device (IED) near a community center in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region on May 10. IJA officials alleged that al Shabaab placed the device. Security forces did not arrest any suspects.[9]

[1] “U.S. boots on the ground in Yemen will be ‘short term’,” Military Times, Andrew Tilghman, May 9, 2016,
[2] “Business begins for the three councils in Kuwait negotiations between the coup and the government,” Al Masdar, May 10, 2016,
[3] “Saudi intercepts missile from Yemen but truce holds,” Reuters, May 9, 2016,; and “Airstrikes by Sauid-Led Coalition in Yemen Kill 10,” The Associated Press, May 9, 2016,
[4] “Arrested two Salafi leaders in Hadramawt and took them to investigate them before Emirate forces,” Al Masdar, May 10, 2016,
[5] “Hadramawt: Legitimate forces arrest 30 of #al Qaeda and seize 20 car bombs,” Barakish, May 9, 2016,  
[6] “U.S. Special Forces launch raid on al Shabaab bases in Southern Somalia,” Goobjoog News, May 10, 2016, and “Somali Commandos and foreign forces raid Al-Shabaab base,” May 10, 2016,
[7] “Mogadishu airport official murdered in Wadajir,” Goobjoog News, May 10, 2016,  
[8] “Somalia: Explosives-laden Car seized in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, May 10, 2016,
[9] “Jubaland forces foiled Bomb placed into a public area,” Mogadishu Center for Studies and Research, May 10 , 2016,
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