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: ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan suicide bomber targets military recruits in Aden; coalition-backed forces raid AQAP positions in al Mukalla; Hadi government delegation agrees to resume Kuwait talks; ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan releases propaganda video; police kill protester in Aden

Horn of Africa: SNA launches anti-al Shabaab offensive in Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab detonates IED targeting NISA in Mogadishu; Kenyan President Kenyatta threatens to withdraw KDF from Somalia due to AMISOM funding cuts; militants throw grenade at SNA soldiers in airport in Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab releases tenth episode of its ‘Mujahideen Moments’ video series; Lamu County Commissioner says Operation Linda Boni is a success

Yemen Security Brief

  • An Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan militant detonated a suicide vest and killed at least 25 military recruits in Aden’s Khormaksar district on May 23. The attack targeted a line of recruits at the home of a Yemeni army commander, which served as a recruitment center. ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan also claimed a subsequent improvised explosive device (IED) at a nearby military base, which reportedly killed at least 20. Local security sources reported the second attack as a suicide vehicle-borne IED (SVBIED). ISIS’s other active affiliate in Yemen, ISIS Wilayat Hadramawt, carried out similar attacks on military targets and security forces recruits in the eastern port city of al Mukalla on May 12 and 15.[1]
  • Saudi-led coalition-backed government forces raided al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) positions in the Rawkab area of al Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate on May 22, killing at least 13 militants. Military officials said that the raid disrupted a planned attack on local military command centers that morning. Three additional AQAP militants died following the raid after inadvertently detonating a VBIED in a nearby workshop. AQAP and ISIS militants have targeted military and security personnel in Hadramawt since coalition-backed government forces recaptured al Mukalla from AQAP on April 24.[2]
  • Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed to resume his delegation’s participation in the UN-led peace talks in Kuwait after a meeting with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al Thani in Doha, Qatar on May 21. President Hadi agreed to resume negotiations after receiving assurances the talks would proceed on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for al Houthi forces to surrender heavy weaponry and withdraw from captured territory. The government’s delegation left the talks on May 17 over disagreements with the al Houthi and General People’s Congress (GPC) party delegation over the talks’ agenda. President Hadi’s foreign minister, Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, declared on May 17 that his delegation would not rejoin the talks until the al Houthi-GPC delegation agreed on six points, including the primacy of UNSC Resolution 2216 and Hadi’s legitimacy as president. Both sides have at times temporarily suspended their participation in the talks, which began on April 21, over alleged ceasefire violations and disagreements on the talks’ agenda.[3]
  • ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan released a propaganda video highlighting several of the group’s attacks on May 20. The 16-minute video begins with the execution of three al Houthi prisoners and includes statements from multiple ISIS suicide bombers, including Dutch fighter Abu Hudhayfah al Holandi, who carried out a January 28 SVBIED attack near the presidential palace in southern Aden. Al Holandi calls for Western Muslims to travel to the Middle East to wage jihad, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. The piece coincides with an uptick in ISIS attacks in al Mukalla and Aden.[4]
  • Police killed one civilian and wounded several others in an attempt to disperse protesters in Yemen’s temporary capital of Aden on May 22. Dozens of residents gathered to protest ongoing electricity shortages, as temperatures in Aden reach upward of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The UAE has provided electricity generators to alleviate the strain on Aden’s existing infrastructure, much of which was damaged in fighting with al Houthis and allied militias in mid-2015. Shortages in Aden have also reportedly affected the nearby governorates of Lahij, Abyan, and al Dhaleh.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • The Somali National Army (SNA) launched an offensive to recapture Gulane village in Adan Yabal, Middle Shabelle region from al Shabaab on May 22. SNA forces killed at least three militants during the operation, according to Adan Yabal’s district commissioner Mohamud Sheikh Hassan. [6]
  • Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a remote-controlled improvised explosive device (IED) that targeted Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) personnel at a checkpoint in KPP junction in Mogadishu on May 23. The explosion injured two NISA soldiers and two nearby civilians.[7]
  • Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta threatened to withdraw Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) from Somalia during a meeting with the UN Security Council on May 20, citing recent funding cuts made by the European Union (EU). Kenyatta said African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is not receiving needed equipment and said it is not Kenya’s obligation to fill the monetary gaps. Kenyatta also defended the KDF from accusations that its troops are involved in illegal activities in Somalia, including charcoal smuggling. The EU cut its funding for AMISOM by 20 percent in January 2016 and AMISOM-troop contributing countries have since complained that they are unable to pay complete salaries to their forces.[8]
  • Militants threw a grenade into the entrance of an airport in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region on May 21, killing at least four SNA soldiers and wounding three others. The attack remains unclaimed. Al Shabaab carried out attacks in Jowhar targeting Somali National Army (SNA) bases in January 2016.[9]
  • Al Shabaab released its tenth episode in its “Mujahideen Moments” series on Telegram and Twitter on May 20. The nine-minute English-subtitled video features a Kenyan al Shabaab militant, who calls on Muslims to join jihad and to leave the “Lands of the Infidels.”[10]
  • Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said Operation Linda Boni has cleared all al Shabaab militants from Kenya’s Boni Forest, which borders southern Somalia. Kenya launched Operation Linda Boni in September 2015 to target al Shabaab after a series of terrorist attacks. Kanyiri said the forest is now stable with no reported attacks or arrests. KDF soldiers will maintain a presence in the area, however, and will support infrastructural development. [11]

[1] Ahmed Al-Haj, “Yemen Suicide Attacks Kill at Least 45 Army Recruits,” Associate Press, May 23, 2016,; and “IS Claims Killing Over 30 in Suicide Bombing, IED Blast on Army Recruitment Center in Aden,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 23, 2016, available by subscription through
[2] “War in Yemen: 13 al-Qaeda fighters killed in Mukalla,” Al Jazeera, May 22, 2016,
[3] Adam Schreck, “UN Envoy Cites Progress in Yemen Talks, Airstrikes Continue,” Associated Press, May 22, 2016,; and “Yemen government to resume peace talks,” Agence France Presse, May 22, 2016,
[4] “IS Division in Yemen Shows Brutal Execution of Houthis in Video, Suicide Bombings in Aden Including One by Dutch Fighter,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 20, 2016, available by subscription through
[5] Yemen police kill one in Aden protests over power cuts,” Agence France Presse, May 22, 2016,  
[6] “SNA raids al Shabaab in Somalia, 3 militants killed,” Shabelle News, May 22, 2016,
[7] Two NISA soldiers among 4 injured in Mogadishu Blast,” Shabelle News, May 23, 2016,
[8] “Kenya threatens to pull troops out of Somalia,” Shabelle News, May 22, 2016,
[9] “4 dead, 3 wounded in Jowhar airport blast,” Shabelle News, May 22, 2016,
[10] “Shabaab Fighter Calls Muslims to Battlefield in Chant in ‘Mujahideen Moments 10,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 20, 2016, available by subscription through
[11] “Operations Linda Boni a success, says Lamu administrator,” Shabelle News, May 23, 2016,
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