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. conducts 17 airstrikes in three months against AQAP in central and eastern Yemen; al Houthi forces fire ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in southern Yemen; al Houthi air defenses shoot down Saudi-led coalition reconnaissance drone in northern Yemen; Amnesty International warns of internally displaced persons due to Red Sea coast offensive

Horn of Africa: Locals accuse U.S. special forces of participating in raid that killed five civilians; Somali Federal Government denies al Shabaab conducted mortar attacks in Mogadishu; al Shabaab claims to kill four SNA soldiers in Mogadishu; UN Security Council warns crisis in Abyei and along Sudan-South Sudan border remains a threat to international security and peace

Yemen Security Brief

The U.S. has conducted 17 counterterrorism airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in four separate Yemeni governorates since February, including six airstrikes in February, seven in March, and four in April, according to a May 16 U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) press release. The U.S. targeted an AQAP training camp in eastern Hadramawt governorate on April 11 and an AQAP checkpoint for “asserting regional control” by collecting revenue in al Bayda governorate on April 21. CENTCOM acknowledged reports of civilian casualties from an airstrike in al Bayda governorate on March 29 and reported that the incident is being assessed for credibility.[1] 

Al Houthi forces fired a Badr 1 ballistic missile targeting Hadi government forces at al Anad air base in Tuban district, central Lahij governorate, southern Yemen on May 17. The missile fell in al Dakim village in al Hawtah district, Lahij governorate, killing one civilian, according to anti-al Houthi sources. Al Hawtah is an island district in the middle of Tuban district.[2]

Al Houthi air defenses shot down a Saudi-led coalition reconnaissance drone near the Saudi border in Monabah district, eastern Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on May 16, according to al Houthi media sources. Al Houthi forces have claimed to down three other coalition reconnaissance drones in May.[3]

Amnesty International warned that a Saudi-led coalition offensive up Yemen’s Red Sea coast has displaced tens of thousands of civilians from al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on May 17. Amnesty International employees interviewed 34 internally displaced persons who arrived in Aden after fleeing al Hudaydah between January and May 2018. The UN reported that violence from the war has displaced 100,000 people, mostly from al Hudaydah governorate, “in recent months.”[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Locals claimed U.S. special forces participated in a Somali National Army (SNA) raid that killed five civilians in Ma’alinka village, 37 miles south of Mogadishu, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on May 9. The raid targeted al Shabaab commanders in the village.  Somali forces detained three senior al Shabaab militants during the raid, according to Somali intelligence officials.[5]

Al Shabaab claimed its militants killed four SNA soldiers in two separate improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Yaqshid and Dynili districts, Mogadishu on May 17.[6]  

Al Shabaab claims to have distributed food aid to more than 100 families for Ramadan in the city Konyabru, Lower Shabelle, southern Somalia on May 17. Al Shabaab has established support zones in parts of southern and central Somalia. Al Shabaab distributes food aid in regions they control to gain support among the populations.[7]

The UN Security Council extended the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Aybei region and warned the crisis in Abyei and along the Sudan-South Sudan border remains a significant threat to international security and peace in a May 15 resolution. Aybei is an oil rich area on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, the two governments could not agree on the border division, which left Abyei without any form of government and its status unresolved. The UN Mission in South Sudan announced it is deploying 150 peacekeepers to protect civilians targeted by warring parties in Unity state, Greater Upper Nile region, South Sudan on May 17. South Sudan’s Civil War began after President Salva Kiir ousted former vice president Riek Machar in 2013. The conflict is between South Sudan government forces and opposition forces.[8]

The Somali Federal Government denied that al Shabaab fired mortars in Hamar weyne, Howl wadaag, Warta Nabada, Waberi, and Wadajir districts, Mogadishu after residents reported hearing explosions on May 17. The Security Ministry spokesman claimed the explosions were “plastic bags filled with explosives” popping. Police claimed al Shabaab militants used the ploy to frighten people.[9]

[1] “CENTCOM updates counterterrorism strikes in Yemen,” CENTCOM, May 16, 2018,
[2] “Badr 1 ballistic missile levels al Anad base in Lahij,” Saba News, May 17, 2018,; and “One civilian killed and another injured by a rocket attack by the Houthis in Lahj,” Al Masdar, May 17, 2018,
[3] “Drop a reconnaissance plane of the alliance of aggression in Saada,” Saba News, May 16, 2018,
[4] “Yemen: Fierce new offensive displaces tens of thousands of civilians from Hodeidah,” Amnesty International, May 17, 2018,
[5] “US forces accused of complicity in Somalia raid that left five civilians dead,” Jason Burke, The Guardian, May 17, 2018,; “A ‘Firefight’ in Somalia Exposes Weaknesses of Pentagon Combat Rules in Africa,” Christina Goldbaum, Daily Beast, May 14, 2018,; and Harun Maruf,Twitter, May 16, 2018,
[6] Al Shabaab kills 4 SNA soldiers, Telegram, May 17, 2018.
[7] Al Shabaab distributes food aid, Telegram, May 17, 2018; “Al Shabaab Area of Operations,” Critical Threats Project, October 17, 2017,
[8] “UN sees ‘serious threat’ in region disputed by Sudans,” France24, May 16, 2018,; “Security Council Adopts Resolution 2416 (2018), Extending Mandates of United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei,” UN, May 15, 2018,; “U.N. deploys more peacekeepers to South Sudan's Unity state,” Reuters staff, Reuters, May 17, 2018,; and “UNMISS boosts protection for civilians targeted by warring parties in Unity,” UNMISS Press Release, Relief Web, May 17, 2018,
[9] “Explosions heard several locations in Mogadishu last night,” Mustaqbal Radio, May 17, 2018,; and “Somali Govt denies reports of mortar attack in Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, May 17, 2018,

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