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 militants temporarily seize Shaqra town in Abyan, southern Yemen; Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen to establish a coordination committee; demonstrators travel to Aden for May 4 protest; Emirati soldier dies in Yemen

Horn of Africa: U.S. AFRICOM prepares to intensify airstrikes in Somalia; Somali security forces arrest soldiers with suspected al Shabaab links in Villa Somalia; U.S. finalizes sale of attack helicopters to Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants temporarily seized a town in southern Yemen on May 3, according to a local security official. AQAP militants attacked a police headquarters and several Emirati-backed al Hizam checkpoints in Shaqra, southern Abyan governorate. A local security official reported that the militants attempted to seize Shaqra but forces under command of the Abyan governor retook the town. Shaqra is a strategic crossroads in southern Abyan where AQAP has tribal ties.[1]

Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on April 29. They agreed to form a committee of representatives from Yemen, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia to facilitate coordination on matters relating to Yemen. The UAE reportedly held negotiations with Russia and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier this year. President Hadi removed two Emirati-backed members of his government on April 27 in a move likely intended to consolidate his authority and secure his position in future negotiations.[2] 

Demonstrators will protest on May 4 in response to President Hadi’s decision to replace Aden Governor Aydarus al Zubaidi. Officials supporting both sides of the protest met to discuss security and promised to prevent any violent actions by their supporters. President Hadi removed 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.  Protesters from Lahij, al Dhaleh, Abyan, and Shabwah governorates traveled toward Aden on May 3 for the demonstration. The governor of Hadramawt emphasized his governorate’s independence from issues concerning Aden.[3]

The General Command of the UAE’s armed forces announced that an Emirati soldier died participating in coalition operations in Yemen on May 2. Emirati forces support counterterrorism efforts and the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive along Yemen’s western coast. The UAE last announced the death of one of its soldiers in Yemen in mid-March.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) may be preparing to conduct airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia in the near term. U.S. military planners asked USAID to gather the coordinates of NGOs and aid workers in the country on April 24. U.S. AFRICOM seeks to avoid civilian casualties but warned that humanitarian personnel conduct activities at their own risk. The Trump administration eased operational restrictions on U.S. airstrikes in Somalia on March 30. U.S. warplanes have not conducted an airstrike in the country since January 2017.[5] 

Somali security forces arrested two soldiers with suspected links to al Shabaab in Mogadishu on May 2. Somali intelligence officials discovered that two soldiers, who were not members of the presidential guard, had entered the presidential palace. Al Shabaab militants have conducted attacks while disguised as Somali soldiers. A suicide bomber wearing an officer’s uniform killed seven soldiers at a Somali National Army (SNA) training camp in Mogadishu on April 10.[6]

The U.S. Department of State approved the sale of 12 MD 530F helicopters to Kenya on May 2. Kenyan military forces will use the helicopters to combat al Shabaab and support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Kenyan military has intensified operations against al Shabaab in areas along the Kenyan-Somali border in recent months. The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) killed 52 al Shabaab militants during an operation near Badhadhe in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia, on April 21.[7]

[1] “A security source Aden Lang: This is a fact, however, the fall of the coastal city Shaqra to al Qaeda,” Aden Lang, May 3, 2017,; “Local residents: the intensification of confrontations between the elements of al Qaeda and the al Hizam forces in Shakra Directorate at a Police station and the perimeter of the public market,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,; and “Violent clashes between the armed forces and the al Hizam forces in the Directorate Shaqra Abyan,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,
[2] “A joint committee under the chairmanship of Yemen and the membership of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to raise the level of coordination and integration,” Barakish, May 3, 2017,; and Tyler Nocita and Maher Farrukh, “Yemen Crisis Situation Report,” April 28, 2017,
[3] “Governor # Hadramout: Demonstrations # Aden do not concern us,” Barakish, May 3, 2017,; “Hawtat Lahij rise up against the legitimate decisions of a major demonstration and festival mass (photographer),” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,; “Daleh province procession begins to advance towards the capital of Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,; “The start of a huge procession for the sons mudiyah district towards the capital of Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,; “A large procession to the children of Shabwa and Abyan passes through the streets of Zanzibar in the way to Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,; and “Source: parties of legitimacy and other representative of the brigade Zubaidi signed an agreement at the headquarters of the coalition under the supervision of Saudi and Emirati,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2017,
[4] “Emirati soldier martyred in Yemen,” Gulf News, May 2, 2017,
[5] Samuel Oakford, “U.S. Signals Possible Airstrikes in Somalia by Asking Aid Groups for their Locations,” The Intercept, April 28, 2017,; and Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, “Trump Eases Combat Rules in Somalia Intended to Protect Civilians,” New York Times, March 30, 2017,
[6] “Two soldiers suspected to be linked to al Shabaab detained in Villa Somalia,” Garowe Online, March 3, 2017,; and Hussein Mohamed, “Suicide Bombing at Somalia Army Camp Kills at Least 7,” New York Times, April 10, 2017,
[7] Gareth Jennings, “US approves MD 530F helos for Kenya,” Jane’s 360, May 3, 2017,; and Tom Odula, “Kenyan Army Says It Kills 52 Al Shabaab Fighters In Somalia,” April 21, 2017,
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