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: Hadramawt governor accuses Hadi government forces of working with AQAP; Chinese oil conglomerate to develop Aden refinery; al Hizam forces use repressive tactics against civilians; rival governments announce cholera response plans

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks AMISOM base in Hiraan region; al Shabaab detonates IED targeting government official in Mandera County, Kenya; al Shabaab administers hudud punishments in Bakool region; SNA troops seize Defense Ministry headquarters in Mogadishu to protest unpaid salaries; Kenya and Ethiopia thwart al Shabaab attacks; UN official warns of worsening humanitarian crisis in Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Hadramawt Governor Ahmed Bin Brik accused forces fighting for President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government of colluding with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Bin Brik claimed that Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces found AQAP militants carrying Yemeni Army First Military Region identification cards. The First Military Region is responsible for military operations in northern Shabwah, Hadramawt, and Mahra governorates in eastern Yemen. Hadi government forces cooperate with AQAP fighters against al Houthi-Saleh forces on several fronts, including al Bayda governorate and Taiz city.[1]

Chinese oil conglomerate Sinopec signed a memorandum of understanding with Hadi government Oil Minister Saif al Sharif to modernize and develop the oil refinery in Aden on May 18. Sinopec seeks to export oil and natural gas from Yemen. Chinese Ambassador to Yemen Tian Qi announced that China will seek to increase its investments in Yemen on May 16. Iranian Parliamentary Director General for International Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called on China to cooperate with Iran and Russia to resolve the conflict in Yemen during a May 12 meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Tehran Pang Sen.[2]

Emirati-backed al Hizam forces are using repressive tactics against the population in southern Yemen. Al Hizam forces reportedly disrupted the funeral of Amjad Abdul Rahman Mohammed, a Southern Movement activist assassinated in Aden on May 15. Locals claimed that al Hizam troops accused Rahman Mohammed of apostasy and warned residents not to attend his funeral on May 18. Al Hizam troops from the same brigade also abducted and tortured three journalists on charges of apostasy on May 17. Hani Bin Brik, the vice president of the Transitional Political Council of the South, stated that media repression will not be tolerated on May 17. Protesters from Lahij governorate gathered in Freedom Square in Aden city to demand the handover of an al Hizam commander reportedly responsible for killing one of their tribesmen. AQAP’s May 14 al Masra newspaper highlighted several reported al Hizam abuses and framed AQAP’s attacks on al Hizam targets as retribution.[3] 

Yemen’s rival governments launched initiatives to address the growing cholera outbreak. Al Houthi-Saleh Prime Minister Abdulaziz bin Habtour announced an emergency committee to address the causes of the outbreak in Sana’a on May 17. President Hadi met with King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid president Abdullah al Rabia’ on May 18. The Center is developing an emergency cholera response plan that will likely include public health experts from the Gulf Cooperation Council.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants attacked an Ethiopian AMISOM base in Halgan town in Hiraan region, south-central Somalia, on May 17. The militants seized parts of Halgan town while attacking the nearby base. Al Shabaab militants and AMISOM forces have clashed over control of Halgan and surrounding areas in recent weeks. Pressure from increased Kenyan military operations along the Kenyan-Somali border drove al Shabaab to shift its operations eastward, resulting in clashes and attacks in Bay, Hiraan, and Bakool regions.[5]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a local Kenyan government official in Elwaq town in Mandera County, northeastern Kenya, on May 17. Al Shabaab militants placed the IED on Wajir-Mandera Road. This attack is the third on the Kenyan side of the Kenyan-Somali border in as many days. Al Shabaab killed a local police chief in Mandera County on May 15 and detonated an IED in Garissa County on May 16. Al Shabaab conducts attacks in Kenya to pressure the state to withdraw troops from Somalia. Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia is a key issue in Kenya’s August 2017 general election.[6]

Al Shabaab militants severed the hands of two men accused of theft in Bakool region, south-central Somalia, on May 18. The two men confessed to committing theft in Tiyeglow district in Bakool region. Al Shabaab publicly enforces hudud punishments in areas it controls. The group seized Tiyeglow and expanded territorial control in Bakool region following the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces in October 2016.[7]

Somali National Army soldiers (SNA) protested unpaid wages in Mogadishu on May 18. Dozens of soldiers from SNA 12th Division seized the Ministry of Defense headquarters and blockaded surrounding streets. President Mohamed Farmajo promised timely wage disbursements during his campaign, but his administration has struggled to pay salaries. SNA soldiers also protested unpaid dues in Mogadishu in March 2017.[8]

Kenyan and Ethiopian law enforcement claimed to thwart several al Shabaab attacks in recent months. Local authorities arrested 33 al Shabaab militants between December 2016 and March 2017 in Tana River County, southern Kenya. Regional authorities claim the arrests foiled two major attacks in the country. The Ethiopian Federal High Courts also sentenced 23 al Shabaab militants to prison. The Court accused the defendants of plotting attacks in Ethiopia.[9] 

United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Raisedon Zenenga, warned the UN Security Council that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia is worsening on May 17. Zenenga stated that the conditions are deteriorating faster than projected and requested an additional $800 million in aid. Severe drought conditions have displaced more than 500,000 Somalis in 2017. International donations have helped avert famine in Somalia, but the Somali Federal Government (SFG) remains incapable of providing aid to its rural citizens. Al Shabaab disrupts SFG aid distribution in an effort to usurp the role of humanitarian provider and garner popular support in rural areas.[10]

[1] “Bin Brik: Al Qaeda in Hadramout supported by the legitimate government and the solution is two north and south provinces,” Aden Tomorrow, May 18, 2017,; “Governor of Hadramout attacking the legitimate government and accuses the first military region in collusion with terrorists,” al Masdar, May 18, 2017,; “Pro-government tribal leader among dead in US raid in Yemen,” AP, February 16, 2017,; and “Final report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen,” UN, January 27, 2017,
[2] “Yemen, China sign a renewed Memorandum of Understanding for the modernization of Aden refinery,” Sabanew, May 18, 2017,; “Yemen, China sign the renewal of the MoU for the modernization of Aden refinery,” May 18, 2017,, “Chinese Ambassador: We are ready to continue the rebuilding of the Yemeni economy,” Sabanew, May 16, 2017,; and  “Iran calls China to intervene in Yemen,” Barakish, May 12, 2017,
[3] “Armed extremists prevented the burial of the body of activist Amjad in Aden and warn him of the prayer,” Al Masdar, May 18, 2017,; Hani Ben Brik, Twitter, May 17, 2017,; “Activist killed in Aden shot dead by unidentified gunmen,” al Masdar, May 15, 2017,; “New issue of Anṣār al-Sharī’ah in the Arabian Peninsula’s newspaper: “al-Masrā #49”,” Jihadology, May 14, 2017,; “Commander of the security belt Hajj "Hadar Alhouthi": we did not kill Bahaa Eddin Subaihi and this is the truth,” Aden Lang, May 18, 2017,; and “Activists described the aim to disrupt the millions .. gunmen pitching a camp in the center of the courtyard .. activist warns of infiltrators,” Aden Lang, May 18, 2017,
[4] “Formation of an emergency committee to cope with the cholera outbreak,” al Masirah, May 17, 2017,; “President visits King Salman Center for Relief,” Sabanew, May 18, 2017,; and “GCC Ministerial Council decides to send emergency medical aid to Yemen to cope with the spread of cholera,” Sabanew, May 17, 2017,
[5] “Somalia: Militants attack Ethiopian base in Hiiran region,” Garowe Online, May 17, 2017,
[6] “Roadside blast kills Kenyan official in border region,” Shabelle News, May 17, 2017,
[7] Feisal Omar, “Somalia’s al Shabaab cuts off hands of two men convicted by sharia court,” Reuters, May 18, 2017,; and Colin Lahiff, “Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals,” Critical Threats Project,
[8] “Somalia: Government forces seize Defense Ministry HQ over unpaid salaries,” Garowe Online, May 18, 2017,; and “Somali soldiers seal of defense headquarters in Mogadishu over pay delays,” Goobjoog News, May 18, 2017,
[9] “Kenya: 33 Suspected Shabaab Terrorists Arrested in Tana River,” All Africa, May 18, 2017,; and “Alleged Shabaab militants sentenced to jail in Ethiopia,” Shabelle News, May 18, 2017,
[10] “As Somalia combats insecurity, drought worsens ‘more rapidly than projected’-UN official,” UN News Centre, May 17, 2017,; and Jordan Indermuehle, “Al Shabaab’s Humanitarian Response, Critical Threats Project,
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