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: ISIS Wilayat Hadramawt carries out suicide attacks on military targets in al Mukalla; AQAP claims SVBIED attack on First Military District Commander; coalition spokesman threatens to invade Sana’a should Kuwait talks fail; peace talks continue in Kuwait with progress on the issue of prisoners and detainees

Horn of Africa: SNA SOF supported by U.S. advisors destroy al Shabaab roadblock in Sabib-Anole, Lower Shabelle; SNA troops withdraw from Marka for unspecified reasons; Secretary Kerry urges Kenya to continue refugee camp operations

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Hadramawt militants targeted government forces with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) in al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate on May 12, killing at least 10 and wounding at least 15. The attack targeted forces at a checkpoint outside a naval base in the port of Khalaf to the south of the city. A second SVBIED struck inside the base, and a third reportedly targeted the home of Second Military District Commander Faraj Salmin, who escaped unharmed. Government forces clashed with militants outside the base in the aftermath of the attacks. ISIS Wilayat Hadramawt claimed the SVBIED attack that targeted forces at the naval base checkpoint, but the other two attacks remain unclaimed. Government sources attributed the attack at the checkpoint to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), however. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghr arrived in al Mukalla approximately one hour after the attacks, for planned meetings with local officials. Forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition recaptured al Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth largest city, from AQAP on April 24. AQAP and ISIS both operate in Hadramawt governorate, especially in the central Wadi Hadramawt region.[1]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed a May 11 SVBIED attack on the convoy of Yemeni First Military District Commander Abdul Rahman al Halili in al Qatan in Wadi Hadramawt. The attack killed eight and wounded several others, including al Halili and two civilians. Al Halili survived an attempted suicide attack in May 2015 in al Qatan, likely accredited to AQAP’s affiliate, Ansar al Sharia, who claimed responsibility for previous attacks on al Halili.[2]
  • Saudi-led coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed al Asiri expressed hope regarding the UN-led peace talks in Kuwait, but warned that the coalition is prepared to advance on Sana’a should the talks collapse. Asiri pointed to the coalition-backed troops stationed near Sana’a and emphasized the coalition’s goal of securing Yemen, describing al Houthi forces and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as a threat to that goal. The general accused al Houthi-Saleh forces of firing two Scud missiles toward Saudi Arabia in the past week. Asiri also commented on the recent coalition-backed operation to recapture the city of al Mukalla from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), calling the operation a first step and underlining the importance of entrenching governance across Yemen.[3]
  • UN-led peace talks continued in Kuwait between Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation and the al Houthi-General People’s Congress (GPC) delegation on May 11. The delegations worked in three committees covering political and security issues and issues related to prisoners and detainees. The committee on prisoners and detainees discussed a proposal to release half of all prisoners held by both sides before the beginning of Ramadan on June 5. The political and security committees reported no significant progress. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed praised the parties’ conduct and called for the international community to continue supporting Yemen throughout the peace process.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Somali National Army (SNA) special operations forces (SOF) supported by U.S. advisors and fighter jets destroyed an al Shabaab checkpoint near Sabib and Anole villages in Lower Shabelle region on May 12.The U.S. advisors came under fire as they attempted to assist Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops in a clearing operation. A Defense Department official reported that the U.S. troops called in air support, which killed at least five fighters. This incident marks the second time U.S. advisors have participated in SNA SOF operations within the past 72 hours. The Pentagon has yet to officially confirm either operation, however.[5]  
  • SNA troops stationed in Marka, Lower Shabelle withdrew from their positions for unknown reasons on May 12 according to local residents. The soldiers had been stationed in the town to mediate clan clashes that occurred late last month. Al Shabaab reportedly brokered a successful compromise between the same clans, raising questions about the SNA’s ability to resolve conflicts. Residents did not report any activity by militants after the troops withdrew.[6]
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement calling for the Kenyan Government to halt its plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp by May 2017. Kerry said that Kenya should honor its 2013 agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and remain a supporter of human rights by not closing the camp. The Kenyan Government has said that Dadaab poses a great security and economic risk to Kenya and cited the numerous cases of al Shabaab recruitment that have occurred in the camp as the foremost reason for the closure.[7]

[1] “Islamic State attack kills 10 in Yemen's Mukalla before PM visit,” Reuters, May 12, 2016,; “IS Claims Suicide Bombing at Yemeni Base in Hadramawt,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 12, 2016, available by subscription through; “ Yemen Qaeda suicide bombers kill 13 troops near Mukalla,” Agence France Presse, May 12, 2016,
[2] “AQAP Claims Assassination Attempt on Yemeni Military Commander by Suicide Bombing in Hadramawt,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 12, available by subscription through
[3] Missy Ryan, “Saudi military threatens to move forces into Yemeni capital if peace talks fail,” Washington Post, May 11, 2016,
[4] “Yemen’s warring camps discuss pre-Ramadan prisoner swap,” Zakaria al-Kamali, Anadolu Agency, May 11, 2016,  
[5] "Foreign, Somali Forces Raid Al Shabaab base,” Shabelle News, May 12, 2016, amd Barbara Starr, “ U.S. Special Forces in Somalia firefight,” CNN, May 12, 2016,
[6] “Somali forces withdraw from Marka town over unknown reasons,” Shabelle News, May 12, 2016,  
[7] “US concerns over closure of Kenyan refugee camps,” Shabelle News, May 12 ,2016, and “US urges against Dadaab camp closure, Kenya says it won’t budge,” Goobjoog News, May 12, 2016,  
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