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 and ISIS are cooperating on the “tactical level” in southern Yemen, according to CIA director; Hadi government and allied forces seize main access road to Sirwah airport, Ma’rib governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces target Saudi border guards near Razah district, Sa’ada governorate; Hadi government and allied forces attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Kirsh district, Lahij governorate

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates IEDs targeting KDF convoy in Mandera County, Kenya; AMISOM and SNA forces seize Abdalla Birole, Lower Jubba region; Somali special forces attack al Shabaab position in Labaatan Jirrow, Bay region; Somali security forces block roads in Mogadishu for IGAD summit; UNHCR asks Kenya to extent Dadaab camp repatriation deadline

Yemen Security Brief

  • Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan stated that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) are cooperating on a “tactical level” in southern Yemen in an interview on September 7. Director Brennan emphasized that the groups’ cooperation has not “translate[d] into collaboration on the external plotting side.” ISIS has recruited former AQAP militants in Yemen. The groups have criticized each other in media publications but have not fought openly.[1]
  • Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government seized the main access road into Sirwah airport, Ma’rib governorate from al Houthi-Saleh forces on September 9. Hadi government and allied forces also encircled an al Houthi-Saleh stronghold in Sirwah district, Ma’rib governorate, according to pro-Hadi news sources. Sirwah district is less than 100 km east of Sana’a city. The Hadi government’s offensive on Sirwah is part of shaping operations for an impending offensive on Sana’a.[2]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces targeted Saudi border guards with small arms fire near Razah district, Sa’ada governorate on September 9. The Saudi-led coalition announced a new phase of operations targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces and leadership responsible for attacks on the Saudi border on September 7.[3]
  • Hadi government and allied forces attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Kirsh district, Lahij governorate. Hadi government and allied forces seized al Jariba village and Mount al Ashqab in al Kirsh, located near the border between Lahij and Taiz governorates. The main road connecting Taiz and Aden city runs through al Kirsh district. [4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants detonated two remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) convoy in Mandera, Mandera County, northeastern Kenya on September 9. Al Shabaab claimed that the simultaneous explosions killed four Kenyan soldiers. Kenyan officials acknowledged the attack but denied any casualties.[5]
  • African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) forces seized Abdalla Birole settlement in Lower Jubba region from al Shabaab militants on September 8. Al Shabaab has operated a training camp and a checkpoint near Abdalla Birole, located approximately 60 kilometers west of Kismayo.[6]
  • A special forces unit in Somalia’s Southwest State attacked an al Shabaab position in Labaatan Jirrow, Bay region on September 9. The Somali forces claimed to kill more than twelve al Shabaab militants, including a militant leader responsible for the collection of zakat, or religious tax. They also recovered firearms and ammunition from the site.[7]
  • Somali security forces blocked several main roads in Mogadishu on September 9 to secure the city in preparation for the annual East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit, which will convene in Mogadishu this week. The blocked roads include Airport Road and the road to Villa Somalia, the presidential palace.[8]
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Kenya Assistant Representative in Charge of Protection, Catherine Hamon Sharpe, said that approximately 25 percent of the Somali refugees in Kenya are willing to return to Somalia by the end of 2016. This figure applies to approximately 70,000 Somali refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp. Sharpe said that the Kenyan government’s plan to close Dadaab camp in November 2016 is unrealistic. The UNHCR asked the Kenyan government to extend the voluntary repatriation period set to end in November. Approximately 2,000 refugees in Dadaab camp have signed up for the program but are unable to repatriate because Somali officials in Jubbaland State have refused to receive them.[9]


[1] Paul Cruickshank and Brian Dodwell, “A View from the CT Foxhole: An Interview with John Brennan, Director, CIA,” Combating Terrorism Center, September 7, 2016,; “Zawahiri Calls Fighters to Unite, Attacks IS for Creating and Maintaining Division,” SITE, August 29, 2016, available by subscription at; and “IS Criticizes AQAP for Failing to Implement Shariah, losing Territories in Yemen in al Naba,” SITE, May 11, 2016, available by subscription at
[2] “National Army controls the main access road to Sirwah airport,” September 9, 2016,; and “Ma’rib: National Army controls the Sirwah airport encircles the Directorate-center from two sides,” Barakish, September 9, 2016,
[3] “Violent clashes between the rebels and Saudi forces in a new front on the border,” al Masdar, September 9, 2016,
[4] “Liberating sites in the northern Lahij after fierce battles between Islamic forces and the putschists,” al Masdar, September 9, 2016,
[5] “Huge blasts target Kenyan security forces in Mander,” Shabelle News, September 9, 2016,; and Live from Mogadishu, Twitter, September 9, 2016,
[6] “AU forces capture location from Al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Xinhua, September 9, 2016,
[7] “Southwest Special Forces Kill Over Dozen Al-Shabaab Terrorist in Labataan Jirrow, Bay Region CT-Ops,” Intelligence Briefs, September 9, 2016,
[8] “Security units block main roads in Mogadishu ahead of IGAD heads of state Summit,” Goobjoog News, September 9, 2016,
[9] “70,000 refugees at Dadaab willing to return Somalia,” Shabelle News, September 9, 2016,  
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