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: Former Yemeni president Saleh announces willingness to negotiate with Saudi Arabia; AQAP conducts SVBIED attack targeting Hadhrami Elite Forces in Hadramawt governorate; AQAP attacks al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate and releases video on operations; Hadi government and al Houthi-Saleh forces clash on multiple fronts in Taiz; Saudi security forces repel al Houthi border attacks in Najran province; al Houthi-Saleh forces attempt to advance in Usaylan, Shabwah governorate; international health organizations fear return of cholera epidemic in Yemen; NGOs report human rights violations by al Houthi forces

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab conducts assassination and mortar attack in Mogadishu; Kenyan President warns against premature AMISOM withdrawal; Yemeni conflict drives piracy off Somali coast

Yemen Security Brief

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh stated that he is open to negotiating with Saudi Arabia. He made the remarks during a meeting of the General People’s Congress party in Sana’a on May 9. Saleh emphasized the importance of dialogue while rejecting the authority of the Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is working to restart negotiations in the hopes of declaring a ceasefire for the month of Ramadan, which begins in late May.[1]

Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants conducted a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack targeting Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen, on May 10. Militants detonated the SVBIED near a base in Daw’an district, western Hadramawt. Hadhrami Elite Forces deployed additional forces to Daw’an on May 10 in response to a series of AQAP attacks in the area.[2]

AQAP militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen. AQAP militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Quraiyshah district on May 8 and in nearby al Zuwab village on May 10. AQAP also released a fifteen-minute video on its operations in al Bayda on May 10. The video highlights a March 24 battle to seize territory from al Houthi-Saleh forces in western al Bayda. This is the sixth video AQAP has released since May 1.[3] 

Hadi government and allied forces clashed with al Houthi-Saleh forces on multiple fronts in Taiz governorate. Hadi government forces claimed to seize Nujaiba in northern Mokha district with coalition air support on May 9. Coalition-backed forces seek to control strategic sites in northern Mokha district to support planned offensives on al Khokha district and al Hudaydah governorate. Al Houthi-Saleh forces attacked Hadi government positions in al Qabbaytah district on the border between Taiz and Lahij after seizing a government complex in Thawjan, Lahij governorate. Hadi government forces also claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack in al Kadiha district in western Taiz governorate on May 9. The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on al Houthi-Saleh reinforcements in northeastern Mawza’ district in western Taiz on May 9 and in Maqbanah district in western Taiz city on May 10.[4]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted multiple attacks on Saudi military targets in Najran province, southern Saudi Arabia on May 10. Al Houthi-Saleh fighters attempted twice to seize Saudi watchtowers near the border. Both sides exchanged artillery fire and claimed to cause significant casualties.[5]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces attacked Hadi government positions in Usaylan district in northern Shabwah governorate, central Yemen on May 10. Hadi government-aligned Southern Resistance forces killed an al Houthi-Saleh field commander from Dhamar governorate during the clashes. Al Houthi-Saleh forces seek to advance into Usaylan district.[6]

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that an alarming uptick in the number of cholera cases in Yemen could escalate into a public health disaster. MSF teams have detected more than 780 cases of cholera since March 30 in Amran, Hajjah, Dhaleh, Taiz, and Ibb governorates. The Yemeni Ministry of Public Health and Population reported 310 cases in Sana’a in that time. WHO officials said that cholera killed 34 people between April 27 and May 6.[7]

NGOs monitoring the conflict in Yemen reported widespread human rights violations by al Houthi forces. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documented a case in which al Houthi forces captured 36 Yemeni civilians and held them for two years. Al Houthi forces tortured the civilians and set up illegal courts to try them for collaborating with the Saudi-led coalition. The NGOs stated that al Houthi forces violated the UN Convention Against Torture and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. Human Rights Watch and several other NGOs published a letter condemning human rights violations from combatants on both sides of the Yemen conflict on May 8.[8]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Suspected al Shabaab militants conducted multiple attacks in Mogadishu on May 9 and 10. Al Shabaab gunmen assassinated clan elder Abdulkadir Sheikh Hussein Farey in Waberi district in Mogadishu on May 10. Farey participated as a delegate in Somalia’s Federal Parliament elections in 2016. Al Shabaab militants also fired mortars at an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base in the Arbacow area near Mogadishu on May 9. Al Shabaab frequently conducts assassinations and mortar attacks in an effort to degrade security in the capital.[9] 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta warned that the premature withdrawal of AMISOM forces from Somalia would be catastrophic on May 9. Kenyatta said that AMISOM must degrade and contain al Shabaab before leaving the Somali Federal Government to exercise authority independently. Kenyatta pledged to maintain the deployment of Kenyan troops in Somalia in order to fulfill AMISOM’s objectives and prevent a security vacuum. AMISOM troops are scheduled to begin the withdrawal process in mid-2018. Troop contributing countries (TCCs), which include Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, have threatened to withdraw forces prematurely due to financial and logistical challenges.[10]

The conflict in Yemen is contributing to a spike in Somali piracy. Officials from EU NAVFOR, the European Union’s counter-piracy mission, said that Somali pirates are taking advantage of reduced international naval presence and an influx of small arms from the Yemeni conflict. Severe drought conditions, poverty, and weak governance in Somalia also contribute to piracy. Somali pirates conducted multiple hijackings in the Socotra Gap area off the northeastern coast of Somalia in recent weeks. These hijackings were the first pirate attacks since 2012.[11]

[1] “Yemen strongman Saleh open to negotiations with Saudi,” Yahoo News, May 10, 2017,; “Ould Cheikh Ahmed tries to restart negotiations,” Barakish, May 10, 2017,
[2] “Urgent: Explosion in the vicinity of the elite forces camp in Wadi Hadramout,” Aden Tomorrow, May 10, 2017,; Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, May 10, 2017,; and “Hadramawt Elite Forces target al Qaeda organization in Dawa’an,” Radar 2, May 10, 2017,
[3] AQAP militants claim two attacks targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda, Telegram, May 9 and 10, 2017; AQAP releases video on its March 24 attack on al Houthi-Saleh forces, Telegram, May 10, 2017.
[4] “At least 19 al Houthis killed including a leader and 24 others injured in clashes and strikes in western Taiz,” al Masdar, May 9, 2017,;  “Coalition warplanes target rebels’ reinforcements in western Taiz,” Barakish, May 10, 2017,;  “The Yemeni Army advances north of Mokha and takes control of strategic sites in western Taiz,” Barakish, May 9, 2017,; and “Government forces repel al Houthi attacks in al Qubbaytah southern Taiz, killing 7 and capturing 9 others,” al Masdar, May 10, 2017,
[5] “Saudi forces repel Houthi attacks in Najran, near Yemen border,” Al Arabiya, May 10, 2017,; “The Army and the popular committees continue targeting the enemy Saudi army’s sites during the past hours,” Saba News, May 10, 2017,; and “Targeting of a number of Saudi military sites in Najran and Asir,” Saba News, May 10, 2017,
[6] “Al Houthi casualties during clash with southern resistance in Usaylan,” Aden Ghad, May 10, 2017,; and “Prominent al Houthi leader killed and two companions injured during battle in Usaylan in Shabwah,” al Masdar, May 10, 2017,
[7] Rick Gladstone, “Cholera Compounds Suffering in a Yemen Torn by War,” New York Times, May 9, 2017,; “Yemen: Increased Response Needed as Cholera Spreads,” Doctors Without Borders, May 9, 2017,; and “Yemen: MSF calls for increased response to cholera outbreak,” Doctors Without Borders, May 9, 2017
[8] “Yemen: From Enforced Disappearance to Unfair Trial,” Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, May 9, 2017,; and “Joint Letter to Ambassadors of the United Nations Security Council,” Relief Web, May 8, 2017,
[9] “Mortars land at AMISOM base near Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, May 9, 2017,; and “Gunmen kill prominent elder in the capital Mogadishu,” Garowe Online, May 10, 2017,
[10] “Uhuru alarms premature AMISOM troops withdrawal,” Shabelle News, May 10, 2017,; and Aggrey Mutambo, “KDF to stay in Somalia until Kenya is secure,” Daily Nation, May 10, 2017,
[11] Jonathan Saul, “Yemen war adds to rising fears for ships in Horn of Africa,” Reuters, May 9, 2017,
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