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: Reported U.S. airstrikes target AQAP militants near Ma’rib city; UN Special Envoy to Yemen announces ceasefire negotiations in Riyadh; pro-Saudi media reports growing rift between former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and al Houthi leadership; al Houthi-Saleh forces and Hadi government forces clash in Taiz governorate; AQAP holds public book review contest in Taiz city; WHO announces new cholera outbreak in Yemen; kidnapped Indian priest pleads for release from suspected ISIS captors; al Houthi-Saleh forces conduct several attacks in southern Saudi Arabia; human rights NGOs express concern for abuses by both sides in Yemen conflict

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab seizes Goof Gaduud village in Bay region; al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED on Makka al Mukarama Road in Mogadishu; al Shabaab beheads two SNA soldiers near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief

Reported U.S. warplanes struck al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants north of Ma’rib city in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen, on May 8. The airstrikes targeted an AQAP camp near a Hadi government military base, Camp Sahn al Jin, and a Saudi-led coalition air base, Camp Tadawin, according to local news sources. Reported U.S. strikes also targeted AQAP positions in Shabwah, Abyan, and Ma’rib governorates on April 29 and 30.[1] 

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced renewed ceasefire talks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and a planned meeting with al Houthi-Saleh representatives in Muscat, Oman. Ould Cheikh Ahmed seeks a humanitarian truce that would begin at the start of Ramadan on May 26 and lead to political negotiations in Kuwait or Geneva on October 6. He did not disclose the terms of the negotiations. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Foreign Minister, Abdulmalik al Mikhlafi, stated that negotiations were unlikely to succeed. Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed al Jaber stated that any ceasefire is contingent on UN oversight of al Hudaydah, a port controlled by al Houthi-Saleh forces in western Yemen.[2]

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh may be preparing to break with the al Houthi movement and strike a deal to end the Yemen conflict, according a Saudi Press Agency report. The report claimed that Saleh called on loyal media outlets to “expose” al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi’s dealings with Iran. The rumors follow the reported broadcast of a threat against Saleh on a television channel linked to al Houthi. A member of the General People’s Congress party led by Saleh accused the al Houthis of “selling Yemen to Iran for a cheap price” on May 8. The rumors of a rift between Saleh and al Houthi leadership follow reports that Russia brokered talks between Saleh and the UAE to reach a political settlement in Yemen, as well as unconfirmed reports that the UAE released Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, following a two-year house arrest.[3]

Fighting continued on multiple fronts in Taiz governorate. Al Houthi-Saleh forces intensified shelling in Hawban district in eastern Taiz city, killing two civilians, and reported artillery attacks on military positions in Dhabab and nearby regions in western Taiz city on May 8. Hadi government and allied forces claimed to seize new sites in Mawza’, western Taiz governorate. The Saudi-led coalition conducted 14 airstrikes on the Hamli region and Camp Khalid in support of the Hadi government ground forces, destroying several vehicles and heavy artillery pieces. [4]

AQAP will reportedly hold a book review contest in Taiz city in Taiz governorate. The group distributed flyers in Taiz to advertise the event. AQAP maintains significant influence and freedom of movement in the eastern part of the city. AQAP militants fight alongside Hadi government-aligned forces against al Houthi-Saleh forces for control of Taiz.[5]

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that an outbreak of cholera killed 25 people in Yemen in the past week. WHO representative in Yemen Nevio Zagaria warned that Yemen faces a reactivation of the cholera epidemic. Zagaria said that the war in Yemen has caused damage to electricity infrastructure and water pumping stations, reducing the quality of water. WHO has recorded nearly 27,000 cases of cholera and 130 deaths since the beginning of the conflict.[6]

Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Catholic priest kidnapped by likely Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants, pleaded for help in a video dated April 15. Uzhunnalil said that the kidnappers treat him well but begged for his family to pursue his release. Four gunmen killed 15 people and kidnapped Uzhunnalil at a nursing home in Aden city in March 2016. ISIS is widely believed to be responsible but has not claimed the attack.[7]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted several attacks in southern Saudi Arabia on May 8 and 9. Pro-al Houthi sources reported that al Houthi-Saleh fighters ambushed a Saudi patrol in Jazan province on May 8, killing two Saudi soldiers and destroying a vehicle. Al Houthi-Saleh artillery forces also fired on Saudi troops in Asir province and Jazan province and destroyed a weapons storage facility in Najran on May 8. Al Houthi-Saleh artillery also targeted Saudi-led coalition forces in Najran on May 9.[8]

Amnesty International and other human rights NGOs expressed concerns over reported human rights violations by the Hadi government and al Houthi-Saleh forces. The NGOs sent a joint public letter to ambassadors of the UN Security Council citing incidents of arbitrary arrests and harassment of human rights activists in Yemen on May 8. The letter urges the UN Security Council to uphold international law and called for Hadi government and al Houthi-Saleh forces to respect the rights of human rights groups.[9]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab seized Goof Gaduud village in Bay region, southern Somalia, on May 9. Al Shabaab militants attacked Somali security forces in the village and killed at least 17 soldiers. Somali military officials vowed to recapture the village after Somali forces retreated from the area. Al Shabaab and Somali security forces have traded control of Goof Gaduud, located 20 miles northwest of Baidoa town, the capital of Bay region, several times in the past year. Al Shabaab militants temporarily seized Goof Gaduud from Somali National Army (SNA) forces on November 23, 2016.[10] 

Al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) targeting Somali military and intelligence forces on Makka al Mukarama Road in Mogadishu on May 8. The blast killed at least eight people, including SNA Major General Abdi Adan, in front of the Immigration Ministry headquarters. Al Shabaab continues to wage a campaign of mass-casualty attacks and assassinations to degrade security in Mogadishu.[11]

Al Shabaab militants beheaded two SNA soldiers near Mahaday town in Middle Shabelle region, southern Somalia on May 6. The militants captured the SNA soldiers along the road outside Mahaday and executed them in front of local residents in Qura’a Madobe village. Al Shabaab last executed SNA soldiers in its stronghold at Jilib, Middle Jubba region on March 3. Al Shabaab frequently enforces hudud punishments and executions in areas that it controls.[12]

[1] “UAV bombs AQAP camp near Ma’rib” Barakish, May 8, 2017,; “US aircraft bombs near Ma’rib,” El Nahar, May 8, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review: May 1, 2017,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, May 1, 2017,
[2] “UN envoy to Yemen begins new round of negotiations from Riyadh,” Almasdar, May 6, 2017,; “UN pushes for a truce by Ramadan,” Barakish, May 8, 2017,; “Mikhlafi reduces importances of next round of negotiations,” Aden Lange, May 8, 2017,; and “Saudi Ambassador says UN control of Hudaydah the first step to solution in Yemen,” Barakish, May 7, 2017,
<[3] “Saleh preparing to sever ties with Al Houthis, reports say,” Gulf News, May 9, 2015,;  “Houthis threaten to assassinate Saleh,” MEMO, May 5, 2017,;  “Yemen’s Saleh plans to withdraw from Houthi alliance,” MEMO, May 2, 2017,;  “Houthis sold Yemen to Iran ‘cheaply,’ says Saleh party official, Al Arabiya, May 8, 2017,;  “Critical Threats Today: April 27, 2017,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, April 27, 2017,; and  Naseh Sahker, “UAE lifts two year long house arrest on son of former Yemeni president,” al Masdar News, May 6, 2017,
<[4] “Two civilians killed during al Houthi shelling in Taiz city and government forces advance in Mawza’,” al Masdar, May 8, 2017,; A number of mercenaries of the invaders killed in artillery bombing and sniper operations in Taiz, Saba News, May 8, 2017,
<[5] “Al Qaeda starts ‘jihadi book club’ in Yemen,” The New Arab, May 7, 2017,; and “Al Qaeda in Yemen ‘fighting alongside Sunni brothers’ against Houthis,” The New Arab, May 4, 2017,
<[6] Noah Browning and Tarek Fahmy, “Yemen cholera outbreak kills 25 people in a week,” AOL News, May 8, 2017,
<[7] “Kidnapped Indian priest in Yemen pleads for help in video,” Reuters, May 9, 2017,; and “Ailing Indian priest abducted in Yemen makes fresh appeal for help in video,” Times of India, May 9, 2017,
<[8] “Two Saudi soldiers killed and vehicle destroyed in ambush in Jazan,” Saadahnews, May 8, 2017,; “Targeting of sites and groups of the Saudi Army and its mercenaries in Asir and Najran and Jazan,” SabaNews, May 8, 2017,;  “Missile and artillery forces target Saudi Army units and mercenaries in Asir and Najran,” SabaNews, May 8, 2017,; and “Targeting of groups of the raiders and their mercenaries in Abbasah region and Bawabat al Sillah in Najran,” SabaNews, May 8, 2017,
<[9] “Joint Letter to Ambassadors of the United Nations Security Council, Relief Web, May 8, 2017,
<[10] “Militants seize key town from pro-government troops,” Garowe Online, May 9, 2017,
<[11] “Shabaab Claims Attack with Explosive-Laden Car in Mogadishu,” SITE Intelligence, May 8, 2017,; and “Car bomb explosion hits the capital Mogadishu, 5 killed,” Garowe Online, May 8, 2017,
[12] Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Al Shabaab Allegedly Beheads 2 Captured Somali Soldiers Near Mahaday,” Voice of America, May 6, 2017,
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