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: IED attack at Sana’a University kills three; vehicles strike IED and landmine in Aden; direct talks cut short in Kuwait; Iranian fishing vessels held in Socotra

Horn of Africa: Reported KDF airstrikes target al Shabaab in Berhani, Kismayo, Lower Jubba region; Kenyan AMISOM convoy repulses al Shabaab ambush in Dhobley, Lower Jubba region; SNA on high alert after reports of planned al Shabaab attacks in Adan Yabal, Middle Shabelle region; Kenyan police forces clash with anti-IEBC protesters in Kisumu and Siaya; tribal elders accuse former Somali Minister of Justice of funding clan clashes in Beledweyne, Hiraan region  

Yemen Security Brief

  • Militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) at Sana’a University on May 24, killing two students and one of the university’s gardeners. The attack apparently targeted an exhibition sponsored by the al Houthi Ansar Allah party, which controls the Yemeni capital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though both al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) have operated in Sana’a in the past. ISIS Wilayat Sana’a last carried out an IED attack in Sana’a in December 2015.[1]
  • A Yemeni military vehicle struck an IED outside of an air defense base in al Mansoura district, Aden on May 24. No casualties were reported. A civilian vehicle also struck a landmine in Khormaksar district, reportedly a remnant of fighting with the al Houthis in mid-2015. The explosion wounded the driver and passenger. Violence in Aden has escalated over the past week, with two high-casualty explosive attacks by ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan and several assassination attempts on military and security officials likely carried out by Islamist militants.[2]
  • UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed reportedly cut short direct talks between the negotiating parties at the ongoing UN-led talks in Kuwait on May 23, citing an atmosphere of apathy. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation and the al Houthi-General People’s Congress (GPC) delegation continued separate talks with Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Talks resumed after a four day hiatus on May 21, following an intervention by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al Thani. The two sides continue to disagree on fundamental agenda items. The al Houthi-GPC delegation has prioritized an agreement on a consensus transitional government, whereas the Hadi government’s delegation has prioritized full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, calling for the al Houthis to surrender heavy weaponry and withdraw from occupied territories.[3]
  • The Yemeni Minister of Fisheries Wealth Fahd Salim Kafayin announced on May 23 that Yemeni authorities seized seven Iranian fishing vessels off the coast of Socotra, a Yemeni island governorate in the Arabian Sea. The vessels reportedly reached Socotra on May 21 and are being held pending investigation of their contents and crews by Yemeni government authorities. Iran’s semi-official Fars News confirmed the reports on May 24. The seizure is the third of its kind in the past year.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) reportedly launched airstrikes targeting al Shabaab bases in Berhani, outside of Kismayo, Lower Jubba region on May 24, according to local social media accounts. Local news outlets have not confirmed the strikes.[5]
  • A Kenyan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military convoy repulsed an ambush by al Shabaab militants in Dhobley, Lower Jubba region on May 24. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, conducted as the convoy traveled from Afmadow to Dhobley. No casualties have been reported. A former al Shabaab commander and a large number of militants reportedly defected to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in December 2015 and took control of Dhobley. Pro-ISIS activity has not been reported in the area in recent months, however.[6]
  • The Somalia National Army (SNA) is on high alert after reports of planned al Shabaab attacks in Adan Yabal, Middle Shabelle region on May 24. The commissioner of the district, Mohamud Sheikh Hassan, said the SNA has succeeded in foiling planned attacks in the past and urged residents to report any suspicious activity. The SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia claimed to have secured Adan Yabal on May 14 without any resistance from al Shabaab militants, who reportedly withdrew from the district.[7]
  • Kenyan police forces clashed with protesters during an anti-Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) protest organized by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) in Kisumu, Kisumu County and Siaya, Siaya County, Kenya on May 23. The police, who used live bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters, shot two civilians while another fell and sustained a fatal head injury while running from tear gas. Kenyan police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters outside the IBEC in Nairobi on May 16.[8]
  • Tribal elders accused former Somali Minister of Justice Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir Mohamed of providing financial support to a clan participating in tribal clashes in Beledweyne, Hiraan region. AMISOM troops entered the Howlwadag neighborhood of Beledweyne on May 19 in an effort to halt ongoing clan clashes, which began on May 17.[9]

[1] “Yemen university bomb kills gardener, injures two students,” Reuters, May 24, 2016,
[2] “Two explosions in Aden, one of them targeting vehicle carrying soldiers,” Al Masdar, May 24, 2016,
[3] Arafat Madabish, “Apathetic Resumption of Yemen Consultations and Ould Cheikh Resorts to Bilateral Meetings,” Asharq Al-Awsat, May 24, 2016,
[4] “Yemeni authorities detain seven Iranian vessels near the coasts of Socotra and open an investigation into their members,” Al Masdar, May 23, 2016,
[5] Omar Nor, Twitter, May 24, 2016,; and Live From Somalia, Twitter, May 24, 2016,
[6] “Kenyan forces repulse Al-Shabaab ambush in Dhobley, southern Somalia,” Goobjoog,May 24, 2016,
[7] “Govt troops in Adan Yabal on high alert over Al shabaab attack,” Shabelle News, May 24, 2016,
[8] “Kenya Cord alliance protests turn deadly,” BBC, May 24, 2016,
[9] “Ex justice minister accused of feuling Beledweyne clan fighting,” Shabelle News, May 23, 2016,
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