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. Green Beret troops assist Saudi forces in locating and destroying al Houthi missile caches; STC president calls for an exclusive southern dialogue with all southern interest groups and individuals; Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces conclude operation against AQAP in in Hadramawt governorate; Yemeni troops arrest Qatari national on espionage charges; AQAP militants ambush al Houthi vehicle in al Bayda governorate

Horn of Africa: Chinese military uses lasers to disrupt U.S. aircraft in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti; suspected al Shabaab gunmen kidnap ICRC aid worker in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Green Beret troops have been assisting Saudi forces to locate and destroy al Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites since at least December 2017, according to a May 3 New York Times report citing U.S. officials and European diplomats. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert Karem told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 17 that the U.S. has fifty troops located in Saudi Arabia working on countering the al Houthi ballistic missile threat. U.S. Department of Defense officials have previously stated that American military support for the Saudi-led coalition is limited to aircraft refueling, logistical support, and intelligence sharing. The Green Beret troops are training Saudi ground forces, monitoring surveillance planes that gather electronic signals to track al Houthi weapons sites, and working with American intelligence analysts in Najran city, southwestern Saudi Arabia.[1]

Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) President Aydarus al Zubaidi invited all southern interest groups and individuals to participate in an exclusive southern dialogue on May 3. Several southern political parties, including members of the General People’s Congress party, the Islah party, the southern resistance, and the Southern Peace Movement, formed a southern coalition in support of President Hadi dubbed the “Southern National Coalition” on May 2. The STC is an Emirati-backed representative body that seeks greater southern autonomy.[2]

Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces concluded Operation Black Mountains, which aimed to clear al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from northwestern Hadramawt governorate on May 2, according to Yemeni Second Military District Spokesman Hisham al Jabari. Hadhrami Elite Forces launched Operation Black Mountains and deployed to roads in Daw’an, al Dhlia’ah, Yabuth, and Hajr districts, western Hadramawt on April 28.[3] 

Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) confirmed Yemeni forces arrested a Qatari national attempting to leave Yemen by crossing the  Oman–al Mahrah governorate border in eastern Yemen on May 3. Yemeni authorities detained Mohsen Saleh Sa’adun al Karbi on suspicion of providing intelligence and support to the al Houthi movement on April 21. The NHRC claimed that al Karbi was visiting relatives.[4]

AQAP militants ambushed an al Houthi vehicle in al Zub area, al Quraishyah district, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on April 26, according to an official AQAP media channel. AQAP frequently conducts attacks against al Houthi forces in al Quraishyah district.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. military officials accused Chinese military personnel of using high-powered lasers to interfere with U.S. military aircraft at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti on May 3. U.S. military authorities said that the lasers affect the eyesight of U.S. pilots and can lead to major accidents. The Djiboutian government temporarily halted U.S. military air operations from Djibouti after two aircraft accidents in early April. The U.S. uses Camp Lemonnier to support military operations against al Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated militants in Yemen and Somalia. China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017.[6] 

Suspected al Shabaab gunmen abducted an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid worker in Wadajir district, Mogadishu on May 2. Somali police claimed that the ICRC’s bodyguard allowed the gunmen to enter the compound. Al Shabaab militants killed an ICRC aid worker with a car bomb in Mogadishu on March 28. Suspected al Shabaab militants also shot and killed a World Health Organization (WHO) aid worker in Mogadishu’s Bakara Market on May 1.[7]

[1] Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, “Army Green Berets Secretly Help Saudis Combat Threat From Yemen Rebels,” The New York Times, May 3, 2018,
[2] “President Zubaidi and members of the Presidency of the Transitional Council witness the carnival festival to commemorate the historic Aden Declaration (text of the President's speech),” Southern Transitional Council, May 3, 2018,; and “President Zubaidi announces the launch of the Southern Transitional Council South-South dialogue,” Southern Transitional Council, May 3, 2018,
[3] “A spokesman for the second military zone announces that Operation Black Mountains aims to secure and complete the deployment plan in areas of northwestern Hadramawt,” Aden Tomorrow, May 3, 2018,; “Hadramawt...Announcement of the success of Operation Black Mountains against al Qaeda,” Barakish, May 2, 2018,; and Yemeni army announces the success of Black Mountains in Hadramawt,” Mareb Press, May 2, 2018,
[4] “Qatar complains after citizen held in Yemen,” Reuters, May 3, 2018,; and “Qatar intelligence officer arrested over Al Houthi links,” Gulf News, May 3, 2018,
[5] “AQAP militants ambush al Houthi vehicle in al Bayda governorate,” Telegram, May 2, 2018; and “AQAP claims it ambushed an al Houthi vehicle in al Zub area of al Bayda governorate on 26 APR,” Twitter, May 3, 2018,
[6] “Chinese military lasers injure US military pilots in Africa,” CNN, May 3, 2018,; “Laser From Chinese Base Aimed at U.S. Military Pilots In Africa’s Skies, Pentagon Charges,” The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2018,; and “Possible Use of Blinding Laser Weapon Near China's Djibouti Base Spurs US Warning to Aviators,” The Diplomat, May 3, 2018,
[7] “German ICRC Aid Worker Kidnapped In Mogadishu,” Radio Dalsan, May 2, 2018,; “ICRC staff member abducted in Somalia,” International Committee of the Red Cross, May 2, 2018,; “Somalia Govt Identify Suspected Abductor Of German Aid Worker,” Radio Dalsan, May 3, 2018,; “Somali gunmen abduct German Red Cross nurse in Mogadishu,” BBC, May 3, 2018,; “Gunmen abduct German nurse after storming Red Cross facility in Somalia,” The Guardian, May 3, 2018,; and “Red Cross Threatens to Withdraw From Somalia Following The Recent Kidnapping Of German Nurse in Mogadishu,” Strategic Intelligence News, May 3, 2018,

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