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: Yemeni government delegation suspends Kuwait talks over seizure of military base northwest of Sana’a; militants target Aden officials in SVBIED attack; AQAP releases statement on withdrawal from al Mukalla; Saudi Arabia releases 40 al Houthi prisoners; coalition-backed forces seize AQAP camp in Wadi Hadramawt

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab launches complex attack on SNA military base in Runirgood, Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab detonates IED in Qoryoley, Lower Shabelle district; suspected al Shabaab militants throw grenades at AMISOM base in Marka, Lower Shabelle region; British soldiers deploy to Somalia to train and advise AMISOM

Yemen Security Brief

  • Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation suspended peace talks in Kuwait on May 1 after al Houthi forces and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh seized a military base northwest of the capital Sana’a. The unit at the seized base, the 29th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, has refrained from fighting on either side of Yemen’s ongoing civil war, despite pressure from al Houthi leadership in Sana’a. Hadi government officials called for an indefinite suspension of the ongoing peace talks in Kuwait over the base’s seizure and other alleged violations of a nationwide ceasefire, which came into effect on April 10. The Hadi government delegation remains in Kuwait, however. Both the government delegation and the delegation representing the al Houthis and General People’s Congress (GPC) party submitted papers on political and security issues to the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on April 30 and began direct talks after over a week of largely individual meetings with the Special Envoy. The Hadi government seeks full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, calling for the al Houthis to surrender heavy weaponry and withdraw from territory captured in the course of the ongoing civil war. The al Houthi-GPC delegation has called for an agreement on a consensus transitional government before discussing security issues.[1]
  • Militants detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) in central Aden on May 1, targeting the convoy of Aden security chief Shalal Ali Shaye’a, Aden Governor Aydarus al Zubaidi, and Fourth Military District Commander Ahmed Saif Muharrami. The attack killed four soldiers, but did not harm the three officials. Militants targeted Shaye’a in a SVBIED attack near his home on April 28 after two other assassination attempts in January and February. Assassination attempts in Aden declined after coalition-backed forces cleared militants from parts of the city and surrounding areas beginning in mid-March, but have risen again in recent weeks.[2]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a formal statement on April 30 explaining its April 24 withdrawal from al Mukalla, Hadramawt. AQAP said that it withdrew to limit civilian casualties, emphasizing that it seeks to fight its enemies on its own terms. The group also pointed to damage inflicted by the coalition-led offensive on local infrastructure, including power plants and markets that AQAP-affiliated groups had helped to restore. AQAP denied reports that coalition-backed forces killed hundreds of its fighters and said that it suffered only a few casualties. The group released a similar statement in June 2012, explaining its withdrawal from Zinjibar and Ja’ar in Abyan. AQAP withdrew from its stronghold in al Mukalla on April 24 in advance of a campaign led by the Saudi-led coalition to retake the city and surrounding areas.[3]
  • Saudi Arabia released 40 al Houthi prisoners, according to an April 30 statement by al Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam. Abdul Salam stated that half the prisoners were captured in Yemen and half under other circumstances, suggesting the latter were captured during cross-border raids into Saudi Arabia. The prisoner release is the latest outcome of ongoing direct talks between al Houthi and Saudi officials, which have led to a reduction in violence along the Yemeni-Saudi border and the delivery of humanitarian aid to northern Yemen.[4]
  • Coalition-backed government forces reportedly seized a AQAP training camp near the city of al Qatan in Hadramawt governorate on April 30. The operation resulted in the seizure of weapons and the capture of eight militants, according to a statement by Hadramawt Governor Ahmed bin Brik. Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition successfully retook al Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt, on April 24 and have expanded their efforts to other parts of the governorate.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants launched a complex attack on a Somali National Army (SNA) military base at Runirgood in Middle Shabelle region on May 1. A militant detonated a SVBIED at the base’s gate before militants raided the compound. The al Shabaab attack killed between 15 and 32 SNA soldiers, and militants stole three vehicles. An al Shabaab spokesperson claimed responsibility for the attack. SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops retook Runirgood town after al Shabaab militants withdrew on May 1 or May 2.[6]
  • Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in a livestock market in Qoryoley, Lower Shabelle region, on May 1. The explosion killed two SNA soldiers and wounded eight soldiers and civilians.[7]
  • Suspected al Shabaab militants threw grenades at an AMISOM base in Marka, Lower Shabelle region on May 1.  AMISOM troops reportedly opened fire indiscriminately after the attack.[8]
  • Ten British soldiers, the first of an approximately 70-person deployment, entered Somalia on a train-and-assist mission in support of AMISOM, according to British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. The British troops are part of a UN peacekeeping mission and will provide engineering, medical, and logistical support to AMISOM. The deployment will also support peacekeeping activities in South Sudan.[9]   

[1] Mohammed Ghobari, “Yemen officials say peace talks suspended after Houthis seize base,” Reuters, May 1, 2016,; “Giants Brigade … story of the Yemeni base whose fall relates to the Kuwait negotiations,” Al Masdar, May 2, 2016,; “Yemeni govt suspends direct talks with Houthis,” Al Arabiya, May 1, 2016,
[2] “Bomb targeting security chief in Yemen's Aden kills four soldiers,” Reuters, May 1, 2016,; “The full story of the reality of the car bomb explosion that targeted the convoy of officials in the government in Aden,” Aden al Ghad, May 1, 2016,
[3] “AQAP Claims Al-Mukalla Withdrawal a Strategic Move to Protect Civilians, Denies High Number of Reported Casualties,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 30, available by subscription through
[4] “Saudi hands over Houthi prisoners as Yemen peace efforts inch ahead: spokesman,” Reuters, April 30, 2016,; Post by Mohammed Abdul Salam on his Facebook page on April 30, 2016.
[5] “Yemen govt forces seize Qaeda-held military camp, arms,” Agence France Presse, April 30, 2016,
[6] “Islamist group al Shabaab kills 15 soldiers - Somali military,” Reuters, May 1, 2016,; and “SNA and AMISOM troops retake Runirgod after Al shabaab retreat,” Shabelle News, May 2, 2016,
[7] “Two dead, Eight injured in Qoryoley market explosion,” Shabelle News, May 1, 2016,   
[8] “AMISOM soldiers targeted in grenade bomb in Marka,” Shabelle News, May 1, 2016,; and “Somali troops carry out sweep in Marka after bomb attack,” Shabelle News, May 1, 2016,  
[9] “First British troops arrive in Somalia as part of UN mission,” The Guardian, May 2, 2016,  
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