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: New Governor Abdulaziz al Muflahi visits Aden; AQAP Emir Qasim al Raymi calls for lone-wolf attacks on the West; AQAP releases video on operations in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; AQAP attacks Hadhrami Elite forces in eastern Hadramawt; cholera outbreak spreads in al Houthi-Saleh territory; Saudi and Iranian Defense Ministers exchange threats; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim ballistic missile strike on southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: SNA and U.S. Navy SEALs kill senior al Shabaab commander in raid outside Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants attack KDF base near Bardhere, Gedo region; al Shabaab militants detonate IED targeting SNA forces in Shalanbod, Lower Shabelle region; Somali security forces seize bomb-making material in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

A political contest continued in Aden in the wake of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s decision to remove prominent Emirati-backed Southern Movement officials from his government on April 27. Abdulaziz al Muflahi, whom President Hadi chose to replace Aden governor Aydarus al Zubaidi, made his first trip from Riyadh to Aden under the protection of Saudi-led coalition and Hadi government forces on May 6. Muflahi held a press conference in Aden and called for deeper investments in energy and clean water for the city before returning to Riyadh on May 8. Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces reportedly reached a deal with Saudi-backed Presidential Protection forces to allow Muflahi to land in Yemen in exchange for control of a main security checkpoint in eastern Aden. Former Aden governor Aydarus al Zubaidi held several meetings with local leaders and will travel to Riyadh on May 9 to discuss opportunities for political cooperation with Muflahi. The Yemeni Journalists Union spokesman accused a number of Hadi government politicians, including Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi and Interior Minister Hussein al Arab, of corruption for accepting $8,000 monthly salaries from Saudi Arabia on May 8.[1] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emir Qasim al Raymi called for supporters to conduct lone-wolf attacks in the West in a statement released on May 7. He called for supporters to commit “eye for an eye” attacks in response to injustices committed against Muslims. Al Raymi stated that individual lone-wolf attackers are equivalent to an army and emphasized the connection between these attackers and the umma. Al Raymi reiterated al Qaeda’s guidance to lone-wolf attackers to keep their operations simple. This is the second speech by al Raymi in a one-week period.[2]

AQAP released a 12-minute video on its operations in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen, on May 8. The video featured several clips of AQAP militants clashing with al Houthi-Saleh forces in western Yemen. The video’s narrator drew parallels between AQAP’s fight in al Bayda and Palestinian resistance to Israel. AQAP militants fight alongside anti-al Houthi-Saleh tribal militias in al Bayda governorate, where Hadi government and Saudi-led coalition forces are absent. AQAP’s operations in al Bayda support its narrative that it is the sole viable protector of Sunnis in Yemen. The video also eulogized several militants killed in al Bayda governorate and recirculated news clips about the January 29 U.S. Special Operations Force (SOF) raid in al Bayda.[3]

AQAP militants attacked Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen, on May 7. Militants attacked a military base in al Dal’aah district, western Hadramawt on May 7, and destroyed a security building in nearby Daw’an area on May 4. Hadhrami Elite Forces deployed additional forces in al Dal’aah following these attacks.[4]

Health authorities in al Houthi-Saleh-controlled territory reported 25 cholera deaths between April 27 and May 8. Sana’a Republican Hospital director Najib Qabati blamed the crisis on the Saudi-led blockade of al Hudaydah port and stated that the region’s medical infrastructure is not equipped to handle such a high number of cases. Al Houthi-Saleh Prime Minister Abdulaziz bin Habtour chaired a meeting with members of his cabinet to discuss the cholera epidemic on May 7. World Health Organization representative in Yemen Nevio Zagaria stated that the country is facing “a reactivation of the cholera epidemic” on May 8.[5]

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalated on May 7 after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that “we will not wait” for a conflict between the two countries to take place in Saudi Arabia, but will “work to have the battle in Iran.” Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan responded that Iran is prepared to “leave no area untouched except Mecca and Medina.”[6]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire a “Zilzal-2” ballistic missile at Saudi military targets in Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia on May 7. This attack is not confirmed.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Somali Federal Government (SFG) confirmed that Somali National Army (SNA) forces killed senior al Shabaab commander Moalim Osman Abdi Badil during a U.S.-supported raid on May 4. U.S. Navy SEALs transported the SNA troops in helicopters to the target area in Barire town in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia, 40 miles west of Mogadishu. SNA troops killed Abdi Badil and three other militants in the raid. Al Shabaab militants opened fire on the U.S. Navy SEALs, who operated in a support role and maintained distance from the main raid. The militants killed a U.S. Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, and wounded a U.S. service member and Somali translator. Milliken is the first U.S. casualty in Somalia since 1993.[8]

Al Shabaab militants attacked a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) base near Bardhere town in Gedo region, southwestern Somalia, on May 7. The militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at KDF forces in the base, killing several soldiers and destroying two armored vehicles. KDF reinforcement troops fired mortars and forced the al Shabaab militants to retreat from the area. The attack was the first attempt by al Shabaab to directly target a Kenyan military base since the January 27 raid in Kolbio, Lower Jubba region. That attack killed 67 KDF soldiers.[9] 

Al Shabaab militants detonated a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) targeting SNA soldiers near Shalanbod town in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on May 8. The blast killed at least three SNA soldiers and wounded four others. The soldiers were conducting an IED-clearing mission along the road outside Shalanbod, located 60 miles southwest of Mogadishu.[10]

Somali security forces conducted a security operation to seize bomb-making material in Mogadishu on May 7. The security forces seized explosive material and weapons from several houses in the Bondhere district in the capital, near the Somali Security Ministry headquarters. Al Shabaab has intensified a bombing campaign in Mogadishu since President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo took office in February 2017. Al Shabaab militants detonated a car bomb targeting a Somali intelligence officer on Makka al Mukarama Road on May 7.[11]

[1] “Coming in from Riyadh, new governor of Aden takes over duties,” al Arabiya, May 7, 2017,; “Zubaidi will intensify consultative meetings with the leaders of the resistance and high military commanders,” Aden Lange, May 7, 2017,; “Meeting in Riyadh between Muflahi and Zubaidi to coordinate their efforts,” Aden Tomorrow, May 8, 2017,; “Muflahi discusses reasons for leaving Aden,” Aden Lange, May 8, 2017,; “Deal between the UAE and Hadi in Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, May 7, 2017,; “Yemeni journalist reveals corruption numbers of Yemeni government leaders,” Aden Tomorrow, May 8, 2017,; and “Calm in Aden as life returns to normal,” Aden Tomorrow, May 6, 2017,
[2] AQAP leader calls for “eye for an eye” lone-wolf attacks in video speech,” SITE, May 7, 2017,
[3] AQAP releases video on its operations in al Bayda governorate, Telegram, May 8, 2017.
[4] “Forces belonging to the elite intervention Hadramout valley of Hadramout and controls the Directorate Daw’an,” Aden Tomorrow, May 8, 2017,; “Qaeda attack targeting an army camp in Wadi Hadramawt,” Aden Tomorrow, May 7, 2017,; “Hadhrami Elite forces Hadrami increase in Wadi Dawan and begin to spread,” Aden Lang, May 8, 2017,; and AQAP claims its militants destroy Hadhrami security building in Hadramawt, May 5, 2017, Telegram.
[5] “Yemen: the death of 21 people due to cholera and a number infected may exceed 1670,” al Masirah, May 7, 2017,; “Sana’a reels from more than 200 cases of cholera,” al Jazeera, May 7, 2017,; “Prime Minister to visit the Ministry of Health in a meeting on the fight against cholera,” Sabanews, May 7, 2017,; “Yemen cholera outbreak kills 25 people in a week: WHO,” Reuters, May 8, 2017,
[6] “Iran minister warns Saudi Arabia after ‘battle’ comments: Tasnim,” Reuters, May 7, 2017,
[7] “Zilzal-2 fired on Najran,” Sabanews, May 7, 2017,
[8] Abdi Sheikh, “Somali government says kills senior al Shabaab chief,” Reuters, May 7, 2017,; and Helene Cooper, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt, “Navy SEAL Killed in Somalia in First U.S. Combat Death There Since 1993,” New York Times, May 5, 2017,
[9] “Kenyan soldiers feared dead as al Shabaab raids KDF base,” Garowe Online, May 7, 2017,; and Hussein Mohamed, “Shabab Militants Attack Kenyan Military Base in Somalia,” New York Times, January 27, 2017,
[10] “Roadside bomb kills three soldiers at Somali checkpoint north of the capital,” Reuters, May 8, 2017,
[11] “Somali forces seize IEDs in Mogadishu sweep,” Shabelle News, May 8, 2017,; and “Intelligence officer wounded in Mogadishu car bomb,” Garowe Online, May 7, 2017,
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