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: Egypt and Jordan agree to European plan to deliver humanitarian aid to Sana’a airport; U.S. Secretary of Defense signs defense agreement with Emirati Crown Prince; AQAP militants detonate IED targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; al Hudaydah tribes pledge to combat Saudi-led coalition offensive; Aden Central Bank staff strike; Saudi-led coalition airstrike kills civilians in Taiz governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missiles at Hadi government forces in al Jawf and Ma’rib governorates

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED in Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants detonate IED in Qansahdhere town, Bay region; international community pledges more than $1.3 billion to assist the Somali Federal Government; EU maritime security organizations conduct counter-piracy training with Somali and AMISOM partners

Yemen Security Brief

The Egyptian and Jordanian governments agreed to participate in a program to open Sana’a International Airport for emergency humanitarian purposes on May 17. The proposed plan would lift the Saudi-led embargo on Sana’a airport to flights from Amman and Cairo. These flights would deliver medical supplies and evacuate cholera patients. European diplomats reportedly facilitated the agreement to circumvent the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade, which has been in place since March 2015. Saudi officials have not yet commented on the proposal.[1]

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed a defense agreement with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan on May 8. The agreement allows the U.S. to station more soldiers in the UAE. The agreement seeks to allow U.S. forces greater access to the Persian Gulf amid growing tensions between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The Pentagon confirmed the agreement on May 16.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen on May 17. AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting an al Houthi-Saleh vehicle in Dhi Na’im, central al Bayda governorate. AQAP is conducting a simultaneous propaganda campaign to frame its operations in al Bayda as a defense of Sunni Yemenis.[3] 

Tribesmen from al Hudaydah and al Raymah governorates agreed on May 16 to support al Houthi-Saleh forces in the fight against the Saudi-led coalition’s planned offensive on al Hudaydah port. The tribes agreed to provide additional money, fighters, and equipment. Raymah Governor Hassan Omari, who was appointed by the al Houthi-Saleh bloc, will coordinate this effort.[4]

The staff of the Yemeni Central Bank in Aden began a strike in response to unpaid salaries on May 16. The staff also called for the removal of the bank’s acting governor, citing mismanagement. The protesters temporarily halted all bank transfers. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi officially relocated the Central Bank from Sana’a, which is controlled by the al Houthi-Saleh faction, to Aden on September 18. The Hadi government has struggled to build new banking infrastructure since the relocation.[5]

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed over a dozen civilians driving in Sha’wba area, al Wazi’iyah district, western Taiz governorate on May 17, according to al Houthi-Saleh sources. The Hadi government began an offense to seize al Wazi’iyah and the surrounding area on May 10.[6]

Coalition air defense systems reportedly intercepted an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile near the border of al Jawf and Ma’rib governorates on May 17. The missile fell near an internally displaced persons’ camp in southern al Jawf. Al Houthi-Saleh media has not confirmed this attack.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Wadajir district in Mogadishu on May 17. Somali security forces interdicted the parked VBIED in front of a police station and arrested the driver. Al Shabaab militants detonated the VBIED remotely while security forces attempted to defuse the device. The blast killed three police officers, two Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officers, and an expert from UN Mine Action. This marks the second attempted al Shabaab VBIED attack in Mogadishu this week. Somali security forces interdicted an al Shabaab VBIED near Villa Somalia, the presidential palace in Mogadishu, on May 15. Al Shabaab frequently conducts mass-casualty attacks targeting Somali government and security forces in order to degrade security in the capital.[8] 

Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in Qansahdhere town in Bay region, southern Somalia, on May 17. The blast struck a local government building, wounding the Qansahdhere deputy district commissioner and several soldiers. Qansahdhere town is located 90 miles southwest of Baidoa, the capital of Bay region. Somali security forces announced the beginning of an operation to remove al Shabaab roadblocks and IEDs from major roads in Bay region on May 17. The operation will facilitate humanitarian aid distribution in the drought-stricken region. Al Shabaab has intensified attacks in Bay, Bakool, and Hiraan regions in response to increased pressure from Kenyan military forces along the Kenyan-Somali border in recent months. Al Shabaab militants clashed with Somali security forces for control of Qansahdhere town in March 2017.[9] 

The international community pledged more than $1.3 billion to support economic and security development for Somalia during the London Conference on Somalia from May 11 to 13. The European Union will invest more than $1.03 billion in 2017 and a total of $4.5 billion through 2020. EU assistance will contribute to AMISOM and Somali security forces’ salaries, as well as supply $596 million for humanitarian aid.[10]

The European Union Capacity Building Mission in Somalia (EUCAP Somalia) and European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR) trained Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) maritime police off the coast of Mogadishu on May 14. EU trainers instructed Somali and AMISOM partners on tactical counter-piracy methods. Pirate attacks on commercial vessels off the coast of Somalia increased in recent months. The EU and international partners agreed to a Security Pact at the London Conference on Somalia to support the training of independent Somali security forces by 2020.[11]



[1] “Conditional reopening of Sana’a airport proposed,” Aden Tomorrow, May 17, 2017,; and “Negotiations begin to conditionally open Sana’a Airport,” Barakish, May 17, 2017,
[2] Phil Stewart, “U.S. signs new defense accord with Gulf ally UAE,” Reuters, May 16, 2017,
[3] AQAP claims its militants detonated an IED targeting al Houthis in Dhi Na’im, al Bayda, Telegram, May 17, 2017.
[4] “Raymah and al Hudaydah tribes declare public support for western coast offensive,” Sabanews, May 16, 2017,
[5] “Central Bank employees' strike and the demands of the departure of the Charge d'Affaires and his office manager,” Aden Tomorrow, May 17, 2017,; and “Stop labor for the staff of the central bank to demand the fight against corruption,” Aden Lang, May 17, 2017,
[6] “Breaking: Dozens die in mistaken air strike west of Taiz,” al Mashad al Yemeni, May 17, 2017,; “13 civilians killed in a crime of aggression in western Taiz,” al Masirah, May 17, 2017,; “Civilians killed and wounded after coalition airstrike targets a car in al Wazi’yah, Taiz,” al Masdar, May 17, 2017,
[7] “Patriot defense systems intercept ballistic missile launched by al Houthi-Saleh forces near displaced person’s camp between Ma’rib and al Jawf,” Aden Lange, May 17, 2017,
[8] Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Car Explosion Kills 6 in Mogadishu,” Voice of America, May 17, 2017,
[9] “Qansahdhere explosion victims brought in Baidoa for treatment,” Goobjoog News, May 17, 2017,; and “Security forces begins opening road blocks set by al Shabaab in Bay region”, Intelligence Briefs, May 17, 2017,
[10] Fred Oluoch, “Somalia Gets $1.3 Billion for Economy, Security,” All Africa, May 16, 2017,
[11] “EUCAP Train Somali Police Force and AMISOM’s Marine Unit off Coast of Mogadishu,” Somaliland Press, May 14, 2017,; and “Conclusion of the London Somalia Conference,” GOV.UK, May 11, 2017,
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