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.{{authorBox.message}}



Yemen: The U.S., France, and the UK call for renewed UN sanctions on Yemen and Iran; U.S. and other western countries reaffirm support for Yemeni peace talks; Emirati and Yemeni forces clear AQAP from valley west of al Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate; Emirati-backed forces attack al Houthi forces in al Jarahi district, al Hudaydah governorate

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian government says state of emergency will last six months; SNA and AMISOM forces conduct joint operation against al Shabaab in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region; Somali government appoints new police commander and NISA director

Yemen Security Brief

The U.S., France, and the UK called for renewed UN sanctions on Yemen and Iran over Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles to the al Houthi movement on February 17. The UK drafted a French and American-supported UN Security Council resolution that included updated UN sanctions on Yemen for another year and imposing sanctions for “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen.” The al Houthi movement uses sophisticated weaponry from Iran against Saudi-led coalition and Hadi government forces in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.[1]

The U.S. and other western countries emphasized their support for renewed UN-led political talks in Yemen. U.S. Deputy Chief of mission in Yemen Anna Escrogina and other western diplomats reaffirmed their support for the Yemeni peace process in meetings with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid Bin Daghr in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on February 19. Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the meetings with the Hadi government are aimed at preparing for the new round of talks expected to begin under new UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths in March.[2]

Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces, supported by Emirati air assets, claimed to clear al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from al Mesini valley, west of al Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on February 18. Emirati-backed forces began an offensive to clear AQAP strongholds in rural areas of Hadramawt on February 15. AQAP militants destroyed a security building in Amd district, central Hadramawt and clashed with Hadhrami Elite forces on February 16. AQAP militants also fired two Grad rockets at a Hadhrami Elite camp in Bedah, Daw’an district, between Amd and al Mukalla in central Hadramawt on February 18.[3] 

Emirati-backed forces attacked al Houthi forces in al Jarahi district, al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on February 18. The Saudi-led coalition renewed an offensive in December 2017 to seize Yemen’s western coast up to al Hudaydah port from the al Houthi movement. Emirati-backed forces seized Hays city, south of al Jarahi, on February 5. Al Houthi forces are counterattacking coalition-backed forces along Yemen’s western coast. Al Houthi forces ambushed a convoy of Emirati-backed forces in Hays district on February 18. The UAE’s state-run news agency reported an Emirati soldier died participating in the Saudi-led coalition but did not provide details on the location or circumstances of his death. Emirati air defenses shot down an al Houthi ballistic missile in Mokha city, Taiz governorate, south of al Hudaydah on February 18.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Ethiopian defense minister said on February 17 that the nationwide state of emergency will last for six months, citing the need to stabilize the country. Violent outbreaks continued in several parts of Ethiopia after the state of emergency was declared on February 16. American and European officials opposed the Ethiopian government’s decision. The Ethiopian Council of Ministers declared the state of emergency on February 16, one day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned. The last state of emergency began in October 2016 and lasted for 10 months in which hundreds died in clashes between police and protesters.[5]

Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces conducted a joint operation to clear the port city of Barawe and secure roads blockaded by al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on February 18. SNA and AMISOM forces have recaptured several villages from al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle since February 12.[6] 

The Somali Federal Government appointed a new director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and commander of the Somali Police Force on February 19. The Somali cabinet endorsed General Bashir Abdi Mohamed as police commander and Hussein Osman Hussein as NISA director. The appointments come four months after Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo fired the previous commanders in October 2017 after a series of al Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu.[7]

[1] “U.N. council mulls condemning Iran over Yemen’s Houthis’ getting missiles,” Reuters, February 17, 2018,

[2] “Western Diplomatic Efforts to Activate Yemeni Talks,” Asharq al Awsat, February 20, 2018,
[3] AQAP destroys security building in Amd district, Telegram, February 16, 2018; “Killed and wounded in the ranks of al Qaeda in Hadramawt,” Al Gaaded, February 19, 2018,; “Government forces storm an al Qaeda position in the al Mesini valley west of Mukalla,” Al Masdar, February 18, 2018,; “Six government soldiers and a number of al Qaeda members were killed in clashes between the two sides west of Mukalla,” Al Masdar, February 17, 2018,; “Coalition forces begin the al Faisal process to control al Mesini valley in Hadramawt,” Al Masdar, February 17, 2018,; and AQAP fires two Grad rockets in Bedah, February 17, 2018, Telegram.
[4] “UAE shoots down Houthi missile over Mocha, Yemen,” The National, February 18, 2018,; “Arab Coalition intercepts ballistic missile over Yemen coastal city,” Al Arabiya, February 18, 2018,; “One Emirati soldier was killed and two others injured in an attack by the Houthis in Hays, southern al Hudaydah,” Al Masdar, February 18, 2018,; “Legitimacy overthrows Houthi's defenses,” Al Bayan, February 18, 2018,; “Houthis suffer major losses in Yemen's Hodeidah,” The National, February 20, 2018,; “Progress of the army in al Jarahi district, latest developments,” Yemen Voice, February 17, 2018,; “Yemeni ambassador condolences to martyr Ali Khalifa Al-Mesmari,” WAM, February 20, 2018,
[5] “Ethiopia says state of emergency will last six months,” Reuters, February 17, 2018,; “A Placeholder Prime Minister Departs. What Comes Next?,” New York Times, February 18, 2018,; “Ethiopia's state of emergency 2.0,” Al Jazeera, February 19, 2018,; and “News: PM Haimeariam’s resignation opens period of uncertainty, State of Emergency undermines smooth transition : EU,” Addis Standard, February 19, 2018,
[6] “Somali forces carry out massive operation near Barawe town,” Radio Shabelle, February 18, 2018,
[7] “Somalia Appoints New Security Chiefs to Combat al-Shabab,” Voice of America, February 19, 2018,; “Somalia appoints Police and Intelligence commanders,” Radio Shabelle, February 19, 2018,; “BREAKING: Major security shake-up after emergency cabinet meeting,” Hiiraan Online, February 19, 2018,; and “Somalia Appoints New NISA, Police & Prison Chiefs,” Radio Dalsan, February 19, 2018,
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Yemen: U.S. Ambassador to the UN calls on Security Council to take action against Iranian support for al Houthi forces; UN Security Council considers praising Saudi and Emirati efforts to ease humanitarian crisis; AQAP militants attack Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian Council of Ministers declares state of emergency; al Shabaab militants attack school in Wajir county, northeastern Kenya; SNA and AMISOM recapture Torotorow town in Lower Shabelle region from al Shabaab; al Shabaab militants defect to Jubbaland authorities

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called on the UN Security Council to take action against Iran for violating UN resolutions on February 15. Ambassador Haley announced it is time for the Security Council to take action after the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen report, which found Iran guilty of preventing the direct or indirect supply of ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to the al Houthi movement, became public on February 14. Russian UN Envoy Vassily Nebenzia asserted that the U.S. has not made a sufficient case proving that Iran supplied ballistic missiles on January 31.[1]

The UN Security Council is considering a British-proposed statement that praises Saudi Arabia and the UAE for pledging $1 billion to ease the humanitarian crisis, according to a Reuters report. The statement would also condemn the al Houthi movement for ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and would denounce all belligerents of the conflict for causing civilian casualties and restricting of the flow of commercial goods and humanitarian aid. A February 14 UN Panel of Experts report concluded that no belligerent of the Yemeni conflict have taken appropriate measures to mitigate the war’s impact on civilians.[2]

Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces in Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on February 16. AQAP militants frequently target al Hizam forces in Mahfad in an attempt to expel them from the district.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Ethiopian Council of Ministers declared a state of emergency, citing the volatile security situation in Ethiopia. The decision follows the resignation of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in response to anti-government demonstrations by members of the Oromo ethnic group on February 15. Desalegn will serve as a caretaker prime minister until the Ethiopian ruling party names a replacement. The Ethiopian government lifted a 10-month state of emergency after clashes between Ethiopian security forces and anti-government protesters killed hundreds in August 2017.[4]

Al Shabaab militants attacked a Kenyan school, killing three teachers and injuring one other, in Qarsa, Wajir County, northeastern Kenya on February 16. The militants attacked Qarsa primary school, which is located near Somali cities Jilib and Bardhere on the southwestern Somali border. The militants also buried an improvised explosive device (IED) along the road to the school. A Kenyan security vehicle ran over the IED but the blast caused no serious injuries.[5]

Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces recaptured Torotorow town from al Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia. High-ranking members of al Shabaab used Torotorow as a stronghold. U.S. airstrikes have targeted Torotorow in the past several months. The joint forces plan to expand their operations to nearby villages still under al Shabaab control. SNA and AMISOM forces have intensified operations against al Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle region since February 12. [6]

Two al Shabaab militants defected to Jubbaland State authorities in Bardhere, Gedo region, southwestern Somalia. A Gedo region security spokesman said that one of the fighters who defected was an al Shabaab commander. Another fighter defected to the authorities in Beled Hawo town in Gedo region on February 14. Regional officials expect more al Shabaab commanders to surrender. Al Shabaab defections have increased since former al Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow defected in August 2017.[7]

[1] “U.S. Calls For UN Action, Citing Report Of Iranian Arms Embargo Violations,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, February 16, 2018,
[2] Michelle Nichols, “U.N. Security Council mulls Saudi praise for Yemen aid pledge,” Reuters, February 15, 2018,
[3] “A martyr and three wounded by an explosive device by al Hizam in Mahfad,” Aden Lang, February 16, 2018,
[4] “Breaking – Ethiopia to declare three month state of emergency as of today,” Addis Standard, February 16, 2018,; “Ethiopia declares national state of emergency,” BBC, February 16, 2018,; and “Ethiopia declares state of emergency: state media,” Al Jazeera, February 16, 2018,
[5] “Three teachers killed in Wajir Shabaab attack,” Daily Nation, February 16, 2018,; “Suspected Al-Shabaab militants kill 3 in Kenyan school attack,” Radio Shabelle, February 16, 2018,; “Suspected Al-Shabaab militants kill 3 in Kenyan school attack,” Xinhua Net, February 16, 2018,; and “3 Teachers Killed In Wajir AlShabaab Attack,” Radio Dalsan, February 16, 2018,
[6] “Somali troops recapture town from Al-Shabaab,” Radio Shabelle, February 16, 2018,
[7] “Two fighters defect to Jubbaland government,” Hiiraan Online, February 16, 2018,

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Yemen: UN panel of experts warns of collapse of Yemeni state in final report; Emirati-backed forces secure valley from AQAP in Hadramawt governorate; Hadi government forces find 11 al Houthi missiles in al Hudaydah governorate; al Houthi movement sentences three individuals from southern Yemen to death in Sana’a; AQAP militants assassinate two al Houthi troops in al Dhaleh governorate

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian Prime Minister resigns; Kenyan High Court rules against deportation of opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna; KDF operation kills three al Shabaab militants in Lamu region, eastern Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

A UN Panel of Experts warned the Yemeni state had “all but ceased to exist,” Yemen’s financial system has collapsed, and that nearly all belligerents in the conflict are responsible for human rights violations in a February 14 report to the UN Security Council. The panel of experts stated that no faction in Yemen currently possesses the political support or military strength to unify Yemen or achieve an outright military victory. The panel’s report found Iran guilty of preventing the direct or indirect supply of ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to the al Houthi movement. The panel also warned that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leadership has remained intact and is attracting low-level ISIS militants despite the organization being at its weakest in years due to an increase in counterterrorism operations and internal divisions.[1]  

Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite, supported by Emirati ground and air forces, cleared the Amd valley of AQAP militants stationed in strongholds in Amd district, central Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on February 15. Hadhrami Elite forces also established new security checkpoints at access points to al Mesini valley, disrupting AQAP supply routes in the area. The Hadramawt Governor affirmed the Hadhrami Elite’s objective to clear rural areas of AQAP.[2]

Hadi government forces found 11 ballistic missiles belonging to the al Houthi movement while clearing western Hays district, al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on February 14. Saudi-led coalition-backed forces took control of Hays city on February 5. Hadi government officials reported that six of the missiles each weighed 500 kilograms and the other five each weighed 200 kilograms.[3]

The al Houthi movement-aligned Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) sentenced three individuals to death in Sana’a for allegedly aiding the Saudi-led coalition on January 30. The three individuals were allegedly subjected to torture and isolation after they were arrested in October 2016 at an al Houthi movement checkpoint in Sana’a while traveling from southern Yemen.[4] 

AQAP militants assassinated two al Houthi troops with a gun equipped with a silencer in Damt district, al Dhaleh governorate, central Yemen on February 10. AQAP frequently conducts assassinations of al Houthi government and security officials in Damt district.[5] 

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned as both prime minister and chairman of the ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), on February 15. Desalegn said that he resigned in order to allow reforms to be carried out amid political unrest in Ethiopia. The EPRDF accepted his resignation. Desalegn became prime minister in September 2012 after the death of his predecessor. Ethiopia has experienced widespread political unrest since anti-government protests broke out in response to urban development plans and accusations of government land grabbing in 2015. Ethiopia’s Oromo population recently protested the slow pace of prisoner releases promised by the ruling party in January 2018. The Ethiopian government has released hundreds of political prisoners in the past few weeks in an effort to deescalate political tensions.[6]

The Kenyan High Court declared that the Interior Ministry’s decision to deport opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna to Canada on February 7 was illegal. The court said that the Kenyan Inspector General and Director of Criminal Investigation defied court orders when deporting Miguna. The court also directed the Kenyan government to return Miguna’s seized passport to the court within a week. Miguna filed a suit for the reinstatement of his Kenyan citizenship on February 12. The Kenyan Interior Ministry is expected to appeal the court’s decision. Kenyan authorities deported Miguna after charging him with treason for his role in the National Resistance Movement and his participation in the symbolic inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga on January 30. The Interior Ministry cited Miguna’s failure to apply for Kenyan citizenship after revisions to the 2010 constitution allowing dual citizenship as justification for his deportation. Miguna obtained a Canadian citizenship in 1988.[7]

Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) killed three al Shabaab militants during a security operation in Boni Forest in Lamu region, eastern Kenya on February 14. Al Shabaab attempted to ambush KDF soldiers and detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) on the road used by KDF troops during the engagement. A KDF spokesman said that they recovered al Shabaab weapons, ammunition, and explosives in the operation. The KDF claimed that al Shabaab is fleeing from increased airstrikes in southern Somalia to eastern Kenya to hide and conduct attacks in the region. Kenyan police also said that al Shabaab’s roadside IEDs have slowed security operations around the Kenyan-Somali border in recent weeks.[8]

[1] “UN Panel of Experts Report on Yemen 2018,” UN Security Council, February 14, 2018,
[2] “Hadhrami Elite forces expelled al Qaeda from Wadi Amd,” Aden Tomorrow, February 15, 2018,; “With the support of the coalition, legitimate forces control the entrances of the Wadi Messini, the most important strongholds of al Qaeda in Hadramawt,” WAM, February 15, 2018,; “A military operation of government forces to control an al Qaeda stronghold in Hadramawt,” Al Masdar, February 15, 2018,; “Battle of Wadi al Mesini, cutting the al Qaeda artery in Hadramawt,” Masrawy, February 15, 2018,; “Details of the attack of the National Army forces on the dens of al Qaeda in Wadi Amd, west of the city of Sayoun,” Watan News, February 15, 2018,; and “Watch the military operation against al Qaeda in Wadi Amd in Hadramawt,” February 15, 2018,
[3] “The National Army finds long-range missiles while combing sites in western Hays district,” Saba New, February 14, 2018,; and “Government forces found 11 long-range rockets in Hays, southern al Hudaydah,” Al Masdar, February 14, 2018,
[4] “Yemen Houthi court sentences three to death after enforced disappearance and alleged torture,” Amnesty International, February 15, 2018,
[5] AQAP militants assassinate two Houthi in Damt, February 14, 2018, Telegram; and Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, February 14, 2018,
[6] “Ethiopia prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigns,” Al Jazeera, February 15, 2018,; “Ethiopia’s prime minister resigns amid political turmoil,” The Washington Post, February 15, 2018,; “Ethiopian Prime Minister Resigns,” Voice of America, February 15, 2018,; and “Ethiopia's PM offers resignation to help reforms after mass unrest,” Reuters, February 15, 2018,
[7] “Miguna Miguna's deportation is illegal, Judge Kimaru rules,” Standard Media, February 15, 2018,; “Miguna Miguna deportation illegal: High Court,” Daily Nation, February 15, 2018,; “Miguna freedom in limbo as Matiang'i appeals deportation ruling,” The Star, February 15, 2018,; and “Miguna deportation illegal, surrender his passports, Kimaru orders,” The Star, Februay 15, 2018,
 “Kenyan court revokes deportation of opposition-linked lawyer,” Reuters, February 15, 2018,
[8] “Kenyan forces kill 3 Al-Shabaab militants,” Radio Shabelle, February 15, 2018,; and “Kenyan forces kill 3 Al-Shabaab terrorists,” Xinhua, February 15, 2018,

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