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: Southern Yemeni leaders form governing council; former president Saleh urges Russia to propose UN resolution to prevent al Hudaydah offensive; UN Special Envoy to Yemen discusses ceasefire proposal with Hadi government; AQAP militants attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; UAE replaces al Hizam commander in southern Yemen; Hadi government forces begin offensive in western Taiz governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to fire ballistic missiles targeting southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Somalia Conference convenes in London; al Shabaab ambushes Ethiopian troops in Hiraan region; Egyptian President Sisi orders humanitarian assistance sent to Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Former Aden governor and Southern Movement leader Aydarus al Zubaidi appeared on Yemeni television on May 11 to announce his presidency of the “Transitional Political Council of the South”. The council’s vice president is former Minister of State Hani Ali bin Brik, whom President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi dismissed alongside Zubaidi on April 27. The Council also includes 24 prominent southern political, tribal, and military leaders, including the governors of Lahij, Abyan, Shabwah, Hadramawt, and Socotra governorates, and the unofficial sultan of Mahra governorate. The council stated that it will continue to work with the Saudi-led coalition against the al Houthi-Saleh bloc.[1]

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh sent an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 11. Saleh asked Russia to propose a resolution in the UN Security Council to end the Saudi-led coalition’s embargo and planned offensive on al Hudaydah port in western Yemen. Russia mediated negotiations between Saleh and Emirati leadership in pursuit of a political solution to the Yemeni civil war, according to an April 25 report.[2]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 11 to discuss his proposed ceasefire plan with Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Vice President Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghir, and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdullatif bin Rashid al Zayani. Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s plan would halt the proposed Saudi-led coalition advance toward al Hudaydah port, establish a humanitarian truce before the start of Ramadan on May 26, and set conditions for a negotiations in Kuwait or Geneva, Switzerland.[3] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen on May 10. AQAP militants detonated the IED in A’arfaf area near the Ibb-al Dhaleh governorate border. AQAP militants also attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in western al Bayda governorate on May 10.[4]

Officials from the Emirati-backed al Hizam forces and the UAE government replaced the commander of the al Hizam security forces, Nabil al Mashowshi, on May 11. Al Hizam forces are responsible for counterterrorism operations and security in parts of Lahij, Aden, Abyan, al Dhaleh, and Shabwah governorates. Emirati officials appointed Nasser al Shawhati, who previously led an emergency response al Hizam force in Aden, as the new al Hizam commander.[5]

Hadi government forces began an offensive against al Houthi-Saleh forces in Taiz governorate. Hadi government forces claimed to seize parts of al Misrakh district in eastern Taiz governorate on May 10. They also claimed to seize sites to the east of the only Hadi government-controlled route to Taiz city.[6]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire two “Zilzal-2” ballistic missiles at al Hammad military base and Fawaz neighborhood in Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia, on May 10. The attacks, which were only reported in pro-al Houthi media, are not confirmed. Saudi Civil Defense forces repelled two al Houthi-Saleh cross-border attacks into Najran on May 10.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

World leaders convened in London for the 2017 Somalia Conference on May 11. The Conference aims to build international support for improving Somali security, political reform and governance, economic development, and humanitarian assistance. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo urged world powers to help the Somali Federal Government (SFG) fight terrorism, corruption, and poverty. He also called for the lifting of the 1992 UN Security Council arms embargo on Somalia to allow access to heavy weapons to better combat al Shabaab. British Prime Minister Theresa May called for the international community to make individual commitments to support the SFG. May vowed to provide $27 million over the next two years to train Somalia’s security forces. UN Secretary-General António Guterres requested an additional $900 million in aid to address the current drought and humanitarian crisis. Other attendees include U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, and delegations from nearly 37 countries and international organizations.[8] 

Al Shabaab militants clashed with Ethiopian troops in Hiraan region, central Somalia, on May 11. The militants conducted multiple ambushes targeting Ethiopian troops along the road outside Beledweyne, the capital of Hiraan region. Al Shabaab militants ambushed the troops near Garasyani and Halgan villages. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces and al Shabaab militants have traded control of Halgan village in recent weeks.[9]

The Egyptian armed forces sent food and medical supplies to Somalia on May 11. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi ordered a C-130 transport plane to deliver the aid to address the humanitarian crisis. More than six million Somalis, approximately half of the population, require humanitarian assistance.[10]

[1] “Banished Aden governor forms independent ‘South Yemen’ council,” The New Arab, May 11, 2017,
[2] “Leader looks forward to the Russian position in the UN Security Council to stop aggression against Yemen,” Yemen Today, May 11,; and “Russia and the UAE: Friends with Benefits,” The Atlantic Council, April 25, 2017,
[3] “Ould Cheikh arrives in Riyadh and hopes for a humanitarian truce before Ramadan,” Aden Tomorrow, May 10, 2017,; “President Hadi receives UN envoy to Yemen,” Sabanew, May 11, 2017,; “Vice President meets UN envoy to discuss developments on the national scene,” Sabanew, May 11, 2017,; and “GCC Secretary-General Meets with UN Special Envoy for Yemen,” Saudi Press Agency, May 11, 2017,
[4] AQAP claims attack targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Dhaleh governorate, Telegram, May 11, 2017.
[5] “Removal of al Mashowshi from the leadership of the al Hizam security and the appointment of an alternative al Shawhati,” Aden Tomorrow, May 11, 2017,; and “The decision to the Minister of Interior commissioned by the leader of the security belt Nasser al Shawhati commander of the emergency battalion and container port,” Yafa news, November 8, 2016,
[6] “National Army restores sites along al Akrudh and Saudi air coalition launches raids along Taiz,” Sabanew, May 10, 2017,
[7] “Zilzal-2 forces target enemy positions in Najran,” Sabanews, May 10, 2017,; and “Saudi forces repel Houthi attacks in Najran, near Yemen border,” al Arabiya, May 10, 2017,
[8] “Somalia asks world to help stabilise ravaged nation,” AFP, May 11, 2017,; “London conference seeks stable Somalia under new leadership,” The New Arab, May 11, 2017,; and “About the London Somalia Conference 2017,” UK Gov,
[9] Live From Mogadishu, Al Shabaab sets up ambushes against Ethiopian troops in Hiraan region, Twitter, May 11, 2017,
[10] “Egypt’s army sends food and medical aid to Somalia,” Shabelle News, May 11, 2017,
View Citations
Arrow down red
Jun '17
May '17
Apr '17