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 suicide bomber targets police recruits in al Mukalla, Hadramawt; al Houthi leader offers condolences on death of Hezbollah commander; U.S. Secretary of State Kerry discusses Yemen with Saudi King Salman; UN-led talks continue in Kuwait

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks AMISOM and SNA bases in Halgan, Hiraan region; SNA and AMISOM forces backed by U.S. advisors capture Barire village, Lower Shabelle from al Shabaab; NISA disrupts laptop bomb-making cell in Howl Wadag district, Mogadishu; SNA and AMISOM troops recapture Adan-Yabaal village, Middle Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief

  • An Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Hadramawt militant detonated a suicide belt near a security forces recruitment center in al Mukalla, Hadramawt on May 15, killing at least 31 police recruits and wounding dozens of others. ISIS Wilayat Hadramawt claimed the suicide attack as part of ISIS’s “Invasion of Sheikh Abu Ali al Anbari” campaign. ISIS affiliates in Iraq, Libya, and Egypt have claimed multiple explosive attacks as part of this campaign since April 30. Militants reportedly detonated a second explosive device near the office of Hadramawt security chief Mubarak al Awbathani on May 15, killing six guards and injuring al Awbathani. Security officials denied the second report. ISIS Wilayat Hadramawt claimed one of three suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attacks on government forces in the port of Khalaf in southern al Mukalla on May 12. Forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition recaptured al Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth largest city and third largest port, from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on April 23.[1]
  • Al Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi offered his condolences on May 15 to Lebanese Hezbollah for the death of its commander Mustafa Badreddine on May 13 in Syria. Al Houthi praised Hezbollah for its military prowess and declared Hezbollah and the al Houthi movement to be in the same trench under the same banner. Al Houthi leaders have met with Hezbollah officials in Lebanon, and Hezbollah commanders have reportedly provided training to al Houthi fighters in Yemen.[2]
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud on May 15 to discuss regional issues, including the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Secretary Kerry and King Salman discussed the UN-brokered peace process and ways to support the fragile ceasefire between government and local militia forces on one side and al Houthi forces and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the other. The discussion also covered the conflicts in Syria and Libya.[3]
  • UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, expressed optimism regarding the ongoing UN-led peace talks in Kuwait in a May 15 statement, but acknowledged persistent differences between the two sides. The issue of a political settlement remains a key stumbling block, according to Ould Cheikh Ahmed, but the negotiating parties have agreed in principle to the release of half of each side’s prisoners and detainees before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation has called for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which requires al Houthi forces to surrender heavy weaponry to the state and withdraw from occupied territories. The al Houthi and General People’s Congress (GPC) delegation meanwhile seeks an agreement on a consensus transitional government before discussing security issues. The UN-led peace talks in Kuwait began on April 21 but have yet to produce any concrete agreements.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants launched simultaneous attacks on Somali National Army (SNA) and Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) bases at Halgan in Hiraan region, Somalia on May 16. The coordinated attacks failed to penetrate either of the bases’ perimeters, according to AMISOM sources. Local residents reported that both sides suffered casualties. AMISOM and SNA forces retain control of Halgan. Al Shabaab conducted a complex attack on an SNA base at Runirgood on May 1 but has not mounted a successful attack against a major AMISOM base since its January 15 assault on an AMISOM forward operating base at El Adde.[5] 
  • SNA special operations forces (SOF) and Ugandan AMISOM troops supported by U.S. advisors seized Barire town, Lower Shabelle region from al Shabaab militants on May 16. The Somali SOF attacked militant positions in the town before Ugandan forces secured the area. The militants retreated to the outskirts of the town.  U.S. helicopters were present during the operation, according to local residents. Somali SOF supported by U.S. advisors raided al Shabaab positions twice along the the ground line of communication (GLOC) between Afgoi town to Awdheegle last week. The Pentagon confirmed that U.S. advisers supported a Somali operation in Sabiid village on May 12.[6]
  • Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officers disrupted a laptop bomb-making cell in Howl Wadag District, Mogadishu on May 15. NISA officers arrested one suspected and seized seven laptops, several of which contained explosives, as well as a list of 90 potential targets and their clan affiliations. Authorities claimed to recover a flag belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), however, the cell’s affiliation is not confirmed. An al Shabaab militant detonated a laptop bomb aboard a Daallo Airlines flight from Mogadishu in February 2016 but failed to bring down the plane or harm other passengers.[7]
  • SNA and AMISOM troops secured Adan-Yabaal in Middle Shabelle region on May 14 after al Shabaab militants withdrew from the town. The government forces entered the town without any resistance and conducted clearing operations to find al Shabaab fighters. Militants executed four prominent elders from Adan-Yabaal in response to the clearing operations.[8] 
[1] “Yemen conflict: IS suicide attack kills 31 police recruits,” BBC News, May 15, 2016,; “At least 47 police killed in bomb attacks on Yemen port city recaptured from al-Qaeda,” Agence France Presse, May 15, 2016,; and “Suicide attacker blows himself up in front of group of candidates for renewal and recruitment for internal security in front of the gate of a Hadramawt security base,” Mukalla Today, May 15, 2016,
[2] “The leader of the revolution sends letter to the secretary general of Hezbollah on the martyrdom of the mujahid Mustafa Badredinne,” Saba News, May 15, 2016,; and “Yemen's Houthi rebel leader praises Lebanese Hizballah 'master fighters,’” The New Arab, May 16, 2016,  
[4] “Difficult matters remain in Yemen talks: UN envoy,” Gulf News, May 16, 2016,
[5] “Al shabaab attacks Army bases near Beledweyne,” Shabelle News, May 16, 2016, and “Allied forces foil Al Shabaab attack in Halgan, Hiiraan region,” Goobjoog News,
[6] “Somali commandos and foreign forces attack Al shabaab base,” Shabelle News, May 16, 2016; Courtney Kube. “ U.S. Conducts Airstrike Against Al Shabab Militants in Somalia,” NBC News, May 12, 2016,; SNA retakes town from Al shabaab following commando raid,” Shabelle News, May 16, 2016, “; NISA, Twitter, May 16, 2016, and Mary Harper, Twitter, May 16, 2016,
[7] “Somali security forces foil Al shabaab attacks in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, May 15, 2016, and “Somali Intelligence Agency seizes laptops, vehicles, flag linked to IslamicState in Mogadishu,” Goobjoog News, May 15, 2016,  
[8] “Somali and AMISOM troops carry out sweep in Aadan Yabaal,” Shabelle News, May 16, 2016,; “Somalia, AMISOM re-seize key town from Al Shabaab,” Shabelle News, May 14, 2016, and “Somalia: Al-Shabaab executes 4 ‘elders’ accused of spying,” Horseed Media, May 14, 2016,  
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