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: U.S. Special Operations Forces raid AQAP compound in central Ma’rib governorate; al Houthi-Saleh protesters attack UN envoy convoy in Sana’a; al Houthi-Saleh forces kill Sudanese soldiers in northwestern Hajjah governorate; Transitional Political Council Vice President condemns Qatar; Hadramawt governor releases detainees; Aden power outages cause casualties and protests; Hadi government PM requests Russian diplomatic assistance in ceasefire negotiations

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks Somali security forces in Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab ambushes convoy in Bay region; Al Shabaab announces graduation of East African militants; Somali pirates hijack Iranian fishing vessel near Puntland

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) conducted a ground raid targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen, on May 23. U.S. forces killed seven AQAP militants with a combination of small arms fire and airstrikes in a compound in al Jubah district, central Ma’rib. Yemeni news sources claimed that U.S. forces killed six AQAP militants and injured five other militants during the raid. Tribal sources reported that U.S. forces also clashed with AQAP militants in neighboring al Bayda governorate. AQAP claimed that the raid will bolster its recruitment efforts in Yemen. U.S. forces conducted the raid with support from President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and in conjunction with “Arab allies.” U.S. Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas stated that the raid was intended to gather intelligence and seize electronic equipment. U.S. and Emirati SOF conducted a similar raid roughly 50 miles south in al Bayda governorate on January 29. One U.S. Navy SEAL and several Yemeni civilians died during the January raid.[1] 

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed traveled to Sana’a to meet with al Houthi-Saleh leaders and advocate for a humanitarian ceasefire on May 22. Protesters affiliated with the al Houthi-Saleh faction threw rocks and eggs at Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s convoy as it left Sana’a International Airport. Initial reports that al Houthi-Saleh forces opened fire on the convoy are likely false. The al Houthi-Saleh Supreme Council of Civil Society Organizations organized the demonstration to protest the UN’s inaction toward the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The Hadi government condemned the convoy attack and called it an “assassination attempt”. Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who spoke before leaving the airport, stated that the UN’s priorities are preventing the Saudi-led coalition offensive on al Hudaydah port and extricating the Yemeni Central Bank from the conflict to facilitate salary payments.[2]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to kill “dozens” of Sudanese soldiers during an offensive in Midi district, Hajjah governorate, on May 22. Video released by al Houthi media shows at least fourteen deceased soldiers wearing Sudanese military fatigues. Sudanese troops arrived in Midi and Marad districts, northwest Hajjah governorate, to assist Hadi government forces against al Houthi-Saleh forces on May 8.[3]

Transitional Political Council for the South Vice President Hani Ali bin Brik released a statement condemning Qatar, a member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, for “interfering in South Arabia” and “assisting terrorists” on May 23. Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, an affiliate of Yemen’s Islah (Reform) party. Islah is the main rival of the Transitional Political Council in southern Yemen. Transitional Political Council leaders praised the UAE and Saudi Arabia during demonstrations on May 21.[4]

Hadramawt governor Ahmed Bin Brik released 18 detainees held on terrorism charges on May 23. Civilians frequently protest against arbitrary detentions in Hadramawt governorate. AQAP propaganda highlights these detentions to promote the narrative that AQAP defends Sunnis from Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces. Bin Brik will release more detainees in the coming days.[5]

Demonstrators protested in response to power outages in Aden city on May 22 and 23. At least three Yemenis died due to rising temperatures and blackouts in Aden on May 22. Some southern Yemeni political actors accused the Hadi government of intentionally causing the power outages to punish southern Yemen for its recent attempts to secure independence.[6]

Hadi government Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghir met with Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin on May 22. Bin Daghir called on Russia to apply diplomatic pressure on al Houthi-Saleh leaders to accept a UN-mediated ceasefire and reject “half-solutions” that would legitimize the al Houthi-Saleh government in Sana’a. Russia mediated direct talks between the UAE and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in pursuit of a peace deal that would bypass the UN process.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab attacked Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces near Lantaburo, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on May 23. SNA and AMISOM forces repelled militants attempting to raid a SNA military base roughly 25 miles west of Mogadishu.  This marks the second attack on security targets on the outskirts of Mogadishu in as many days. Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a SNA convoy along the road between Afgoi and Mogadishu on May 21.[8]

Al Shabaab ambushed a SNA vehicle in Awdiinle town near Baidoa, Bay region, southern Somalia on May 22. The militants killed seven SNA troops and seized several Kalashnikov rifles in the attack. Al Shabaab also threw a grenade at a local police station in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on May 22. The assassination attempt targeted a Somali government official, who survived the attack. The group claimed to kill several guards in the attack.[9] 

Al Shabaab announced the graduation of East African fighters in a fifteen-minute video disseminated through the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF). Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage, also known as Ali Dhere, called for jihad and conquest in Kenya while speaking at the graduation ceremony. The recruits traveled from Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda to train at a camp located in East Africa.[10]

Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel off the coast of Puntland, northern Somalia on May 23. Pirates target fishing vessels because they provide a strategic asset to allow pirates to stage attacks on larger ships.[11]


[1] Eric Schmitt, “Navy SEAL Team Kills 7 Militants in Yemen During Raid, U.S. Says,” New York Times, May 23, 2017,; “U.S. forces conduct counter-terrorism raid,” U.S. Central Command, May 22, 2017,; “11 dead and wounded in U.S. attack in Marib # - Names,” Barakish, May 23, 2017,; and “Yemen .. U.S. raid in Ma’rib, killed seven al Qaeda,” Aden Tomorrow, May 23, 2017,
[2] Ahmed al Haj, “Yemeni protesters pelt UN envoy’s motorcade with rocks, eggs,” ABC News, May 22, 2017,; “Shooting at convoy of the UN Envoy to Yemen in Sana’a,” Sky News Arabia, May 22, 2017,;  Naseh Shaker, “Convoy of UN’s special envoy to Yemen comes under fire in Sana’a,” AMN Al Masdar News, May 22, 2017,; “Civil march on foot to reach Sana’a International Airport,” Sabanews, May 22, 2017,; “Foreign Ministry condemns the assassination attempt on UN envoy to Yemen,” Sabanew, May 22, 2017,; and “UN envoy to Yemen says al Hudaydah port should be kept safe,” Reuters, May 22, 2017,
[3] “Houthis: Dozens of Sudanese army soldiers killed north of Midi,” Aden Tomorrow, May 22, 2017,; and “Watch: Invaders and mercenaries suffer losses in the desert north of Midi,” Al Masirah, May 22, 2017,
[4] Hanibinbrek, Twitter, May 22, 2017,; Christa Case Bryant, Behind Qatar’s bet on the Muslim Brotherhood,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 18, 2017,; and “May 21 speech of President Aydarus al Zubaidi,” Aden Tomorrow, May 21, 2017,
[5] “Hadramawt Governor directs the release of a number of detainees on terrorism issues and give them a chance to review themselves and integrate into society,” Aden Lang, May 23, 2017,
[6] “Protesters blocking a number of main streets in the capital of Aden - Images,” Aden Lang May 23, 2017,; “Urgent: Angry protesters blocked the main road in Mualla in protest against power cuts,” Aden Lang, May 23, 2017,; and “The death of three citizens due to power outages from their homes in Aden,” Aden Lang, May 22, 2017,,
[7] “Legitimacy hopes Russia will put pressure on the militias,” Aden Tomorrow, May 23, 2017,; Tyler Nocita and Maher Farrukh, “Yemen Crisis Situation Report,” Critical Threats Project, April 28, 2017,
[8] Ahmed Mohamed, “Fighting between SNA and Al-Shabaab kills at least two,” Goobjoog, May 23, 2017,; and “Somalia: Heavy Fighting renews in Lower Shabelle region,” Garowe Online, May 23, 2017,
[9] Shabaab reports implementation of Shariah punishments on thieves and murderer, claims attacks on Somali troops,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 22, 2017, available by subscription through
[10] “Shabaab Spokesman Addresses Graduation of Foreign Fighters from East Africa in video,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 22, 2017, available by subscription through
[11] “Somali pirates hijack Iranian fishing vessel - Somali official,” Reuters, May 23, 2017,

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