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: Suspected al Houthi-Saleh militants detain an American citizen in Sana’a; reported U.S. airstrike targets AQAP militants near Ma’rib city, central Ma’rib governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces counterattack in Kirsh district, Lahij governorate; Hadi government and allied forces clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces in Nihm district, Sana’a governorate

Horn of Africa: UK to deploy additional forces to Somalia to aid in fight against al Shabaab; militants detonate car bomb in Shibis district, Mogadishu; Puntland court sentences young al Shabaab militants to deradicalization camps and prison terms

Yemen Security Brief

  • Suspected al Houth-Saleh militants detained an American citizen in Sana’a. Approximately twelve gunmen abducted Peter Willems, the director of the English-language Exceed Language Center in Sana’a, from the school on September 20. His location is unknown. Al Houthi-Saleh forces may hold at least two other Americans.[1]
  • A reported U.S. airstrike targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants near Ma’rib city, central Ma’rib governorate on September 20. U.S. Central Command last confirmed airstrikes targeting AQAP militants in Shabwah governorate on September 6.[2]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces counterattacked against forces affiliated with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government in al Tabba al Hamra area in Kirsh district on September 21. The clashes occurred near the northern Lahij-Taiz border on September 21. Two Hadi government field commanders were killed in the clashes, according to a pro-Hadi news source. Hadi government and allied forces seized Kirsh district on September 9. The main roadway connecting Taiz to Aden runs through Kirsh district.[3]
  • Hadi government and allied forces clashed with al Houthi-Saleh forces in Nihm district, northeast of Sana’a city, on September 20. Hadi government and allied forces last clashed with al Houthi-Saleh forces in Nihm district on September 9. These attacks are part of shaping operations in preparation for an offensive on Sana’a. [4] 


Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May announced at the UN General Assembly on September 20 that the United Kingdom will deploy additional forces to Somalia to aid in the fight against al Shabaab. Approximately 60 British forces currently train and assist Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Somalia. May plans to increase the current level but did not specify the force size.[5]
  • Militants detonated a car bomb in the Shibis district of Mogadishu on September 21. The blast killed one individual and wounded another. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Al Shabaab has used car bombs to assassinate prominent officials in Mogadishu in the past.[6]
  • A Puntland court sentenced 54 al Shabaab fighters captured during clashes with Puntland security forces in the Mudug and Nugal regions in March 2016. Approximately half of the fighters ranged in age from 10 to 15 years old and will participate in deradicalization programs. The older individuals, ranging in age from 15-20 years old, will serve 10-15 year jail sentences. Puntland officials executed 43 adult al Shabaab fighters from the same group in June 2016.[7]


[1] “Photo emerges of kidnapped US teacher in Yemen,” al Arabiya, September 20, 2016,; “Houthi Rebels in Yemen are holding multiple Americans prisoner,” Washington Post, September 21, 2016,
[2] “Killed two suspected high-ranking al-Qaeda in a strike in Ma’rib,” al Masdar, September 21, 2016,; and Demolinari, Twitter, September 20, 2016,
[3] “The killing of two leaders in the field of resistance in the crash north of Hajj following an attack Houthi,” al Masdar, September 21, 2016,
[4] “Renewed fighting in Nihm district, east of Sana’a after the attack by government forces on Houthi-Saleh positions,” al Masdar September 21, 2016,; “Army and People's Committees hinder the advance of the hypocrites of aggression towards Mount harem binge,” Saba News, September 9, 2016,
[5] Steve Hawkes, “Foreign Aid Increase,” The Sun, September 21, 2016,; and “Theresa May: UK will send more troops to Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab,”
[6] “One person killed, another injured in car explosion in Mogadishu,” Goobjoog News, September 21, 2016,
[7] “Military Court in Puntland Sentence large number of Alshabab fighters to jail,” Goobjoog News, September 20, 2016,
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