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: Saudi Arabia prepares for President Trump’s visit; President Hadi open to Ramadan ceasefire; Sudanese troops deploy to Hadramawt governorate; UN official warns that Aden is not a viable alternative to al Hudaydah port; WHO warns cholera is spreading at unprecedented rate; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to fire ballistic missile toward southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab releases video of Kenyan POW; EU Parliament demands UN investigation into Ethiopian protest killings

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. President Donald Trump will begin his trip to the Middle East in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20. In addition to meetings with Saudi officials, he will attend a meeting with internationally recognized Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to discuss U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition. Yemeni officials will present Trump administration officials with evidence of Iranian assistance to the al Houthi-Saleh bloc U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia surround the Riyadh trip. Saudi Arabia signed a $6 billion littoral ship sale with American manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corporation on May 18 and Lockheed is expected to sell additional Patriot air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. American General Dynamics Corp. is also planning to finalize a deal with Saudi Arabia for 115 M1A2 tanks during President Trump’s visit.[1] 

Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi expressed an openness toward a ceasefire during talks with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on May 19. The proposed ceasefire will span the month of Ramadan to allow much-needed humanitarian aid to enter the country. Hadi government officials previously stated that they would not agree to a temporary ceasefire and only would engage in negotiations for a political settlement. Germany facilitated the negotiations.[2]

Twelve hundred Sudanese troops deployed to al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate, on May 19. These troops will participate in counterterrorism operations in Hadramawt and Shabwah governorates, according to local news sources. An additional 3,800 Sudanese troops are expected to deploy to Hadramawt. Sudanese troops recently participated in offensives against al Houthi-Saleh forces in Taiz and Hajjah governorates in central and northwestern Yemen. [3]

UN World Food Program Director of Emergencies Denise Brown stated that there is no viable alternative port to al Hudaydah on May 18. Brown explained that 75 percent of UN food aid enters Yemen through al Hudaydah port, an al Houthi-Saleh-controlled city on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Brown countered a frequent claim by the Hadi government and Saudi-led coalition that Aden could serve as an alternative, pointing out that the port lacks the storage, transportation, or docking infrastructure to facilitate UN operations. The UN believes that over five million Yemenis could lose access to food if al Hudaydah is disabled.[4]

World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Yemen Nevio Zagaria warned that the rate at which cholera is spreading in Yemen is “unprecedented” on May 19. Zagaria predicted that Yemen will experience 250,000 cases within the next six months. At least 242 people died of cholera in Yemen between April 27 and May 19.[5]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire a “Zilzal-2” ballistic missile toward Alib military base in Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia, on May 18. This attack is not confirmed.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

An al Shabaab video showed a Kenyan prisoner-of-war (POW) on May 18. The soldier pleads for the Kenyan public’s attention ahead of the country’s election in August in the four-minute-long video. The soldier identifies himself as Senior Private Alfred Danyi Kilasi and claims he was one of 11 Kenyan soldiers captured after al Shabaab’s raid in El Adde, Gedo region, in southern Somalia in January 2016. The video makes several references to the upcoming Kenyan election, demonstrating the militant group’s interest in the event. Kenya’s incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta advocates for a strong military surge against al Shabaab, while his opponent, Ralia Odinga, favors a withdrawal of Kenyan and AMISOM troops from Somalia.[7] 

European Parliament demanded a UN investigation on May 18 into Ethiopian security force killings. Ethiopian security forces killed hundreds of anti-government protesters and detained tens of thousands between November 2015 and October 2016. Activists rallied against rights violations, corruption, and bad governance, which has disenfranchised many Ethiopians from local political and economic systems. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) revealed in an April report that security forces killed 669 protesters. Instability in Ethiopia forced the country’s military to withdraw from Somalia, where it was fighting al Shabaab. Ethiopia’s withdrawal allowed al Shabaab to seize several towns previously held by AMISOM forces. The Ethiopian parliament extended the state of emergency by four months in April.[8]

[1] “Yemeni Foreign Minister: We Have Documents on Iran’s Crimes,” Asharq al Awsat, May 19, 2017,; Conor Finnegan, “What to watch for in President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia,” ABC News, May 19, 2017,; Susanne Koelbl,“Yemen Foreign Minister: ‘Our Enemis Want to Starve Us,’” Spiegel Online, May 19, 2017,; “Saudis Said to Forge $6 Billion Lockheed Deal for Littoral Ships,” Bloomberg Politics, May 18, 2017,; and Anthony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Lockheed Martin to Deliver Sniper Pods for Kuwait Hornet Aircraft,” Lockheed Martin, May 15, 2017,
[2] “The Yemeni presidency puts one condition for the approval of a truce in Ramadan,” Barakish, May 19, 2017,; and “German attempt to break the deadlock in the Yemeni crisis,” Aden Tomorrow, May 19, 2017,
[3] “After accusations of Ben Brik the first region to support terrorism .. Are the Sudanese forces will impose a new reality in Hadramawt?!” May 19, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, May 19, 2017,
[4] Umberto Bacchi, “Attack on Yemen’s port would push country nearer famine: UN,” Reuters, May 18, 2017,
[5] “WHO: Speed of Yemen cholera outbreak 'unprecedented,'” al Jazeera, May 19, 2017,; “WHO expects at least 200,000 cholera infections in Yemen,” Barakish, May 19, 2017,
[6] “Zilzal-2 rocket strikes gathering of Saudi mercenaries in Najran,” Sabanews, May 18, 2017,
[7] “Shabaab Video Shows Kenyan POW ‘pleading’ with Kenyan public, politicians for help,” SITE available by subscription at ,
[8] Felix Horne, “European Parliament Demands Investigation Into Ethiopia Killings,” Human Rights Watch, May 18, 2017,; “Ethiopia Rights Body: ‘more than 600 protest deaths,’” BBC, April 18, 2017,; and Colin Lahif, “Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals,” Critical Threats Project, November 4, 2016,
View Citations
Arrow down red
Jun '17
May '17
Apr '17