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. Director of National Intelligence confirms Iranian advanced weapons support for al Houthi-Saleh forces; AQAP releases video on battle against al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate; China to increase investments in Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces destroy home of tribal leader in al Dhaleh governorate; Hadi government official warns of cholera in Sana’a prisons

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab conducts multiple attacks targeting Somali security forces in southern Somalia; suspected al Shabaab militants attack Kenyan police forces in Mandera County; Somali security forces interdict SVBIED near Presidential Palace in Mogadishu; Saudi king invites Somali president to summit in Riyadh

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats confirmed that Iran provides “explosive boat technology,” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and missile support to al Houthi-Saleh forces during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on May 11. Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted an unmanned explosive boat attack targeting a Saudi frigate on January 30 and attempted a similar attack targeting a Saudi petroleum facility on April 26.[1] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released an 18-minute video of a battle against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen on May 16. The video depicts AQAP militants seizing Jabal Nawfan and the surrounding area in western al Bayda governorate. The battle may have occurred on April 4. The video opens with narration accusing the U.S. of supporting the al Houthi-Saleh bloc. AQAP has released seven propaganda videos since May 1.[2]

The Chinese government announced plans to increase investment in Yemen on May 16. Chinese Ambassador to Yemen Tian Qi announced that China is ready to invest in railways, roads, ports, and humanitarian cooperation with the internationally recognized Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Yemeni Oil and Minerals Engineer Saif al Sharif, Ambassador to China Mohammed Mikhlafi, and Deputy Director of Aden Refinery Ahmed Hassan met with Chinese National Petroleum Corporation Vice President Wang Dongjin in Beijing on May 16. The group discussed options for Chinese investment in the Yemeni oil industry and a potential deal to restore the Aden and Ma’rib refineries.[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces looted and destroyed the home of a tribal leader accused of collaborating with anti-al Houthi popular resistance forces in al Dhaleh governorate on May 15. Al Houthi-Saleh forces seized the village of Rabia’tain in Juban district, central al Dhaleh on May 15 after two days of fighting with Hadi government and popular resistance forces. They destroyed the home of Sheikh Abdul Hakim al Omari after taking the village.[4]

Hadi government Human Rights Minister Mohammed Askar called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene on behalf of political prisoners detained by the al Houthi-Saleh movement in Sana’a on May 15. Askar warned that the unsanitary conditions in al Houthi-Saleh prisons contribute to the rapid spread of cholera in Sana’a and endanger detainees’ lives. At least 45 detainees are reportedly infected with cholera in Habra prison in Sana’a. The French government and UN International Children’s Education Fund announced a donation of over $4 million to fight cholera in Yemen on May 15.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab conducted multiple attacks targeting Somali security forces in southern Somalia on May 14 and 15. Al Shabaab militants attacked Somali National Army (SNA) forces at a barracks in Qoryoley in Lower Shabelle region. Militants assassinated a Somali militiaman in Halgan in Hiraan region. Al Shabaab militants also ambushed Somali militiamen on the outskirts of Hudur in Bakool region. Al Shabaab claimed to kill and wound several Somali soldiers during the attacks.[6]

Suspected al Shabaab militants attacked Kenyan police forces in Mandera County, Kenya on May 15. The militants killed a local police chief and abducted two police reservists in Omar Jillo town on the Kenyan-Somali border. Kenyan police deployed reinforcements following the attack. Al Shabaab frequently attacks Kenyan police and civilians along the Kenyan-Somali border. Al Shabaab militants killed two Kenyan quarry workers in Elwaq in Mandera County on May 11.[7] 

Somali security forces interdicted an attempted al Shabaab suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack in Mogadishu on May 15. Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow said that security forces seized a SVBIED and detained two suspected al Shabaab militants at a checkpoint near Villa Somalia, the presidential palace in the capital. Al Shabaab has conducted a campaign of mass-casualty VBIED attacks in Mogadishu since the election of President Farmajo in February 2017.[8]

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud invited Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo to attend a summit on May 20 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. U.S. President Donald Trump will attend the summit. U.S. and Arab leaders will discuss security concerns and seek to improve relations between the Trump administration and majority Muslim countries. President Farmajo made his first official state visit to Saudi Arabia on February 23, the day after his inauguration.[9]

[1] Jeremy Binnie, “US intelligence says Iran supplying 'explosive boats' to Yemeni rebels,” Jane’s 360, May 15, 2017,
[2] AQAP releases video on its militants attacking al Houthi-Saleh forces in Jabal Nawfan, Telegram, May 16, 2017.
[3] “Chinese Ambassador: We are ready to contribute to the rebuilding of the Yemeni economy,” Sabanew, May 16, 2017,; and “China demonstrated its willingness to contribute to the development of Aden and Ma’rib refineries,” Aden Tomorrow, May 16, 2017,
[4] “Houthis blow up a house in the northern province of al Dhaleh after renewed clashes in Hamak,” al Masdar, May 15, 2017,; and “Houthis looted cars and destroyed a civilian’s house in al Dhaleh,” Aden Lange, May 15, 2017,
[5] “The Yemeni government calls for the Red Cross to intervene and save 45 prisoners from cholera,” al Masdar, May 15, 2017,; “Ministry of Human Rights calls for the Red Cross to rescue 45 detainees in militia prisons infected with cholera,” Sabanew, May 15, 2017,; “About $4 million from UNICEF and France to combat the rapid spread of cholera,” al Masdar, May 15, 2017,
[6] “Shabaab reports CIA ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Unit to be Established in Sudan, Targeting Somali Forces in Hiraan, Bakool, and Lower Shabelle,” SITE Intelligence, May 15, 2017,
[7] “Al-Shabaab kill chief, abduct two reservists in Mandera”, Shabelle News, May 16, 2017,
[8] “Somalia: Security Forces foil car bomb attack in Mogadishu”, Garowe Online, May 15, 2017,
[9] “President Farmajo invited to Islamic, US Summit in Riyadh,” Garowe Online, May 16, 2017,
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