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: Al Houthi forces disable an Emirati air defense system in western Yemen; Republican Guard officers defect from al Houthi movement; Emirati-backed forces seize Islah headquarters in Shabwah governorate; gunmen assassinate a senior Islah official in Aden

Horn of Africa: Ethiopia’s ruling party to drop charges against opposition leader; SNA offensive destroys al Shabaab IEDs and  radio station in Lower Shabelle region; Raila Odinga rejects Western diplomats’ recognition of Kenyatta administration

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi forces disabled an Emirati Patriot air defense system by striking the system with an explosive kamikaze drone before launching a ballistic missile at the site in Mokha district, Taiz governorate, western Yemen on February 9. The Saudi-led coalition claimed its air defense system intercepted the missile. Al Houthi forces attempted to use Iranian-supplied kamikaze drones multiple times in 2017 to attack Patriot systems in Yemen.[1]

Sixty-six Republican Guard officers defected from the al Houthi movement on February 11. Republican Guard units, previously loyal to late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, defected from the al Houthi movement in December 2017 and participated in a Saudi-led coalition-backed offensive along Yemen’s western coast. Security forces detained the officers at a checkpoint in al Dhaleh city, central Yemen after denying the officers passage. Officials from the Transitional Political Council of the South (STC), an Emirati-backed representative body that seeks increased autonomy in southern and eastern Yemen, attempted to broker the officers’ travel to Aden. The UAE threatened to intervene if al Dhaleh security forces do not release the officers.[2] 

Emirati-backed Shabwani Elite Forces seized an Islah party headquarters and Islah-affiliated buildings in Mayfa’a district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen on February 11. The Shabwani Elite Forces turned over the headquarters to the STC. The STC held a ceremony inaugurating its local leadership in Mayfa’a in the seized Islah headquarters on February 13. The head of Shabwah’s STC branch announced the STC’s intention to establish local councils in every Shabwani district. The STC banned the Islah party from Aden in July 2017 and arrested eleven party members in October 2017 for allegedly killing a Salafi imam. The STC overran Hadi government infrastructure in Aden in January.[3]

Gunmen assassinated the Islah party’s Department of Organization and Rehabilitation head, imam Shawqi Kamadi in al Mualla district, Aden on February 13. Militants have assassinated several Salafi imams in Aden since October 2017.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), will drop terrorism and inciting violence charges against prominent dissident Bekele Gerba after protests across the Oromia region demanding the release of Gerba and other political prisoners. Ethiopian authorities arrested Gerba, the deputy leader of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, in December 2015. The Ethiopian Federal High Court later sentenced Gerba to a year’s imprisonment for contempt of court on February 5. The EPRDF has not stated whether Gerba will be immediately released. The Ethiopian government has released over 2,000 political prisoners since January 2018 following a pledge by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.[5]

The Somali National Army (SNA) destroyed two vehicles carrying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) toward Mogadishu in Mubarak village, Qoryoley in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia. SNA forces also destroyed Radio Andalus, a radio station used by al Shabaab, in the area. The SNA launched an offensive on February 12 and captured multiple villages in the Lower Shabelle region from al Shabaab.[6] 

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga rejected a statement by Western diplomats calling on Odinga to recognize President Uhuru Kenyatta as the legitimately elected leader of Kenya on February 11. Odinga pledged to never recognize Kenyatta as president and told diplomats to “keep off” Kenyan politics during a rally in Nairobi. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Codec has led Western diplomats in asserting Kenyatta’s legitimacy and encouraging Odinga to recognize Kenyatta’s administration as a prerequisite for a national dialogue.[7]

[1] “Destroying the Pac-3 system in Mokha,” Al Masirah, February 10, 2018,; and “Houthi ballistic missile and drone strike hit UAE army Patriot SAM in Mocha town area,” Twitter, February 9, 2018,  
[2] “Al Dhaleh security relieves 66 officers from the Republican Guard after being detained for hours,” Al Masdar, February 11, 2018,; “Urgent: 66 officers of the Republican Guard were detained in al Dhaleh, they were on their way to Aden and and Zubaidi intervened and the security department refused,” Aden Tomorrow, February 11, 2018,; “66 senior officers of the Republican Guard released in al Dhaleh and headed towards Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, February 11, 2018,; “Al Dhaleh security spokesman denies the release of Republic Guard officers,” Al Masdar, February 12, 2018,; and “Al Dhaleh’s security challenges the UAE threat and the events confirm the exposure of Abu Dhabi and its coup against the alliance,” Mareb Press, February 13, 2018,
[3] “Holding the founding meeting of the local leadership of the Southern Transitional Council in Mayfa’a district,” Southern Transitional Council, February 13, 2018,; “Shabwani Elite storming and taking over the headquarters of charities in Shabwa,” Al Masdar, February 11, 2018,; “Shabwani Elite stormed the headquarters of the reform of the province and transferred the seat to the Transitional Council,” Al Khabar Now, February 11, 2018,; and “Forces storming the headquarters of the Islah party and handing it over to the Transitional Council,” Barq Press, February 11, 2018,
[4] “Gunmen assassinate a senior leader of the Islah Party in the city of Aden,” Al Masdar, February 13, 2018,; and “The assassination of one of the leaders of reform in the southern city of Aden,” Al Islah, February 13, 2018,
[5] “Ethiopia to Drop Charges Against Top Dissident Bekele Gerba,” Voice of America, February 12, 2018,; “Ethiopia drops terrorism charges against top opposition figure,” Xinhua Net, February 12, 2018,; and “Ethiopia drops charges against 7, including Gerba,” Anadolu Agency, February 12, 2018,; “Ethiopia frees opposition leader jailed for incitement,” Reuters, February 13, 2018,; and “Breaking: Amidst crippling region-wide strike in Oromia, Ethiopia freed seven prisoners including Bekele Gerba and Gurmesa Ayano,” Addis Standard, February 13, 2018,
[6] “ Somalia Averts Major Attack As 2 Explosive Laden Vehicles Destroyed Near Afgoye,” Radio Dalsan, February 13, 2018,; “Somali forces destroy Alshabaab radio station in Lower Shabelle,” Hiiraan Online, February 13, 2018,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review: February 12, 2018,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, February 12, 2018,
[7] “Raila Odinga tells envoys to keep off Kenyan politics,” Daily Nation, February 11, 2018,

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