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: U.S. Navy to increase force presence in Red Sea; Hadi government and rival militia forces clash at Aden airport; AQAP claims attacks on al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; Hadi government forces advance toward Ikhtul, north of Mokha city

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants attack multiple SNA positions outside Afgoi town, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab commits to fighting new Somali government; UAE to build air and naval base in Somaliland

Yemen Security Brief

  • The U.S. Navy will likely deploy two additional destroyers to the Red Sea, according to sources from the U.S. Department of Defense. The two warships may come from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which operates in the Mediterranean Sea. The Navy deployed the USS Cole to increase security in the Red Sea on February 4 following an al Houthi-Saleh suicide boat attack on a Saudi warship near al Hudaydah port on January 30.  U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis considered a plan to interdict an Iranian ship in the Arabian Sea last week to counter weapons smuggling to the al Houthi-Saleh faction in Yemen.[1]
  • Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s security forces clashed with militias loyal to the director of airport security at Aden International Airport from February 10 to 13. President Hadi ordered Aden Airport Chief of Security Saleh al Omari to step down on February 10. Hadi government and allied forces clashed with Omari’s forces near the airport overnight on February 11. A Saudi-led coalition Apache helicopter fired missiles at a military vehicle belonging to al Omari’s men on February 12, killing three combatants. Hadi government forces continue to besiege Aden International Airport, contradicting claims from pro-Hadi government media that the two sides reached a truce. President Hadi traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the clashes on February 13. Security officers at Aden International Airport seized a Ukrainian arms shipment allegedly intended for the Islah party and Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen al Ahmar last week. [2]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants continue to fight against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen. AQAP militants claimed to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) in Ibb city targeting a convoy transporting the al Houthi-Saleh security officials. AQAP claimed that the IED blast caused several al Houthi-Saleh casualties. AQAP militants claimed to assassinate an al Houthi-Saleh commander in a market near the Dhamar-Ibb governorate border on February 10. AQAP militants shelled nearby al ‘Abil village, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on February 10. AQAP also shelled al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Manasih village, northwestern al Bayda on February 9.[3]
  • Forces loyal to President Hadi advanced towards Ikhtul, Mokha district, Taiz governorate on February 13. They also seized a power plant north of Mokha city. Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired ballistic missiles from Ikhtul on February 9. Hadi government forces are demining parts of Mokha city and clearing remaining al Houthi-Saleh fighters from the area. UN Refugee Agency Spokesman William Spindler accused al Houthi-Saleh forces of using civilians as human shields in Mokha city on February 10. Spindler also accused al Houthi-affiliated snipers of shooting at fleeing civilians.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants raided two Somali National Army (SNA) camps in Tihsile and Warmahan villages in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia on February 12. The militants overran the camps, killed two soldiers, and seized two military vehicles and ammunition before withdrawing. Al Shabaab militants also ambushed a SNA convoy carrying reinforcements from Baledogle military base to the site of the raids on February 12. The militants detonated a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) before opening fire on SNA soldiers on the road between Afgoi and Wanlaweyn towns in Lower Shabelle region. The attack killed at least 12 soldiers, including General Mohamed Hassan Bakay, the deputy commander of the SNA’s 6th Division. These attacks were al Shabaab’s first since new Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo took office.[5]
  • Al Shabaab commanders vowed to continue fighting against the new Somali government and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces during a rally in Jilib town, Middle Jubba region in southern Somalia on February 12. More than 800 newly trained militants paraded through the town after a graduation ceremony. Al Shabaab escalated its operational tempo in Mogadishu in recent months in an effort to disrupt Somalia’s election processes.[6]
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will construct an air and naval base in the port city of Berbera in northwestern Somalia following an agreement with the autonomous Somaliland state. Parliamentarians approved the deal by vote of 144 to seven on February 12. The UAE agreed to invest in development and infrastructure projects in Somaliland, including a $442 million deal to turn Berbera into a major port on the Gulf of Aden. UAE began to construct another military port at Assab in Eritrea in September 2015.[7]
[1] “US Navy beefs up Red Sea presence,” February 11, 2017,; David Sanger, Eric Schmitt, and Peter Baker, “Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down,” New York Times, February 12, 2017,
[2] “Forthcoming meeting of security and military leaders to discuss airport developments,” Aden Tomorrow, February 12, 2017,, “Details of an agreement ending the problem of Aden airport,” Aden Tomorrow, February 12, 2017,, “Helicopter bombs vehicle amid power struggle in Yemen’s Aden,” Reuters, February 12, 2017,,“Clashes take place away from the Aden Airport,” Aden Tomorrow, February 12, 2017,, and “Latest news from Yemen reports calm after two days of clashes involving Apache helicopters,” Shabwa Press, February 13, 2017,
[3] AQAP claims attacks against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen, Telegram, February 10-13, 2017.
[4] “Security forces continue demining and pursuing the remaining militias in Mokha region,” Aden Lange, February 13, 2017,, “Security forces in control of the power plant and residential town ten km north of Mokha,” Aden Lange, February 13, 2017,, “Geneva/Yemen Update,” UNHCR, February 10, 2017,, and “Breaking: Outbreak of violent clashes between the national army and militias in Tor al Baha,” Aden Lange, February 13, 2017,
[5] “Al Shabaab Attacks Military Camps in Somalia, at Least 2 Dead,” Voice of America, February 12, 2017,; and “Top military officer among 12 soldiers killed in attack,” Shabelle News, February 12, 2017,
[6] “Harakat Shabaab Vows To Fight Farmajo’s New Somali Government,” Strategic Intelligence Service, February 13, 2017,
[7] “Somaliland Approves Naval, Air Base Deal with UAE,” Voice of America, February 12, 2017,; and “The UAE Joins an Exclusive Club,” Stratfor, December 8, 2016,  
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