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: AQAP video criticizes Emirati-backed forces in Yemen; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims attack against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; Saudi Deputy Crown Prince says negotiations with Iran are impossible; southern Yemeni militias pledge support for May 4 protests in Aden; Hadi government announces imminent offensive in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants attack AMISOM base near KM-50 area west of Mogadishu; U.S. military and diplomatic delegation meets with Somali president in Mogadishu; Dutch police arrest suspected al Shabaab militant

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video criticizing the Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces in southern Yemen on May 2.  The video is the seventh in AQAP’s Repulsion of Aggression video series. Al Hizam forces conduct counterterrorism and security operations in territory administered by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government. The video features interviews with Yemenis describing illegal detentions and other abuses by al Hizam forces. The video also framed a March 2017 AQAP attack on al Hizam forces in Lahij governorate as reprisal for abuses against Yemenis.[1] 

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen on April 29. Wilayat al Bayda distributed a photoset of its militants targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces with multiple artillery pieces and small arms fire in northwestern al Bayda governorate. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda last claimed an attack on April 2.[2]

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman stated that negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are impossible on May 2. He said that Iranian ideology is incompatible with Saudi Arabia. Bin Salman also claimed that Saudi Arabia could defeat the Iranian-backed al Houthi-Saleh bloc “in a matter of days.”[3]

Southern Yemenis will hold a demonstration on May 4 in Aden city to protest the removal of the governor of Aden. President Hadi removed Governor Aydarus al Zubaidi on April 27. Zubaidi is a prominent Southern Movement leader who is held in high regard for leading the offensive to retake Aden city from al Houthi-Saleh forces in fall 2015. President Hadi removed Zubaidi and other officials who are part of an Emirati patronage network in Yemen. Several southern Yemeni tribal groups, militias, and political actors pledged support for the May 4 protest. Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to send two battalions of National Guard troops to Aden on May 4 to install the new Aden governor. President Hadi’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi issued a series of statements on social media acknowledging that differences exist between Saudi Arabia and the UAE but reaffirmed that their objectives in Yemen remain unified.[4]

The Hadi government announced an imminent military operation to open a new front against al Houthi-Saleh forces in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on May 2. Hadi government forces will enter Maran and Haydan districts in western Sa’ada from neighboring Saudi Arabia. Hadi government forces reopened a front in al Buqa’ district, northern Sa’ada, in early December 2016 that has since stalled. The Hadi government offensive in Sa’ada is part of larger shaping operations to surround Sana’a, Yemen’s capital.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants attacked an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base near the KM-50 area in Lower Shabelle region on May 2. Al Shabaab militants opened fire on the base with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. AMISOM forces repulsed the attack and killed at least six al Shabaab militants. Al Shabaab claimed to kill more than 10 AMISOM soldiers and destroy several military vehicles. KM-50 is located 30 miles west of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab frequently targets AMISOM forces in Lower Shabelle region. The group ambushed a convoy of Ethiopian AMISOM forces on the road west of Wanlaweyn in Lower Shabelle region on May 1.[6]  

U.S. military and diplomatic officials met with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Somali National Army (SNA) leaders on April 29. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander General Thomas Waldhauser, U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz, and leaders of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) met with President Farmajo at Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu. The U.S. delegation committed to improving Somalia’s security by countering the threat from al Shabaab and supporting the development of SNA forces. The U.S. deployed 40 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to Somalia on April 2 to train SNA forces and support logistical coordination.[7]

Dutch police arrested a suspected al Shabaab militant in Sint-Oedenrode, Netherlands on April 26. Dutch prosecutors said police arrested the unidentified Somali man on suspicion of involvement with al Shabaab. It is unknown whether the man was plotting an attack. The suspect is scheduled to appear in court in Rotterdam on March 3.[8]


[1] AQAP’s al Malahem media releases Repulsion of Aggression 7, Telegram, May 2, 2017.
[2] ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda, Dawaal Haq, April 29, 2017.
[3] Sami Aboudi, “Powerful Saudi prince sees no chance for dialogue with Iran,” Reuters, May 2, 2017,
[4] “(Aden Lange) publishes the general objectives of the advance of the masses towards the capital of Aden, Shabwa (Wednesday),” Aden Lang, May 2, 2017,; “Sons of the central region are preparing to march to Aden in the parade will be the largest at the level of Abyan province,” Aden Lang, May 2, 2017,; Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, Twitter, May 2, 2017,; Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, Twitter, May 2, 2017,; and “A massive march in Mualla in Aden to denounce the decisions of the Republic of South targeted symbols of resistance,” Aden Lang April 28, 2017,
[5] “Saada Governor: prepare a huge process,” Aden Lang, May 2, 2017,; and “Urgent: "Abdulmalik al-Houthi" surprised by this shocking military announcement,” Nass Times, May 2, 2017,
[6] “Six al Shabaab fighters killed in battle with AMISOM forces,” Garowe Online, May 2, 2017,
[7] “AFRICOM, CJTF-HOA Commanders meet with Somalia President,” United States Africa Command, May 2, 2017,
[8] “Dutch Police Arrest Suspected Member of al Shabaab Network,” Associated Press, May 2, 2017,
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