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: Saudi-led coalition airstrike hits civilian home in Sana’a governorate; U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson meets with British, Saudi, Emirati, and Omani counterparts on Yemen; Iranian President Rouhani calls for a ceasefire in Yemen;  Saudi air defenses intercept al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile over Asir region, southern Saudi Arabia; January 29 U.S. SOF raid killed anti-AQAP tribal leader

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants bombard areas near presidential palace in Mogadishu during power transfer ceremony; suspected al Shabaab gunmen assassinate pro-government clan elder in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a funeral gathering in Ashira village, Arhab district, Sana’a governorate on February 15. The strike occurred at the home of Mohammed al Nakaya, an al-Houthi-aligned tribal leader. The strike killed seven women, according to a local hospital. The Saudi-led coalition released an official statement promising to investigate the bombing on February 16. The statement came on the same day as a Human Rights Watch report confirming that a coalition airstrike on a school killed two students and a teacher in Sana’a governorate on January 10.[1]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his British, Saudi, Emirati, and Omani counterparts in Bonn, Germany to discuss the conflict in Yemen on February 16. The meeting took place behind closed doors at the 2017 G20 Summit in Bonn, which marks Tillerson’s first trip abroad as Secretary of State. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said that the meeting made him “very, very optimistic” about the U.S. administration’s willingness to cooperate on Middle East issues. The State Department released a short statement on the meeting expressing support for UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and encouraging both sides to cooperate on the delivery of humanitarian aid. [2]Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his support for a ceasefire in Yemen after meeting with Omani and Kuwaiti officials on February 15. Rouhani emphasized that negotiations should be “Yemeni-Yemeni,” in contrast to ongoing initiatives that rely on the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile toward Abha Regional Airport in Asir region, Saudi Arabia on February 15. Saudi air defenses intercepted the missile. Saudi government sources claimed that al Houthi-Saleh forces intended to strike the city of Khamis Mushait, near Abha. Khamis Mushait houses the Saudi Royal Air Force’s King Khalid Air Base. Saudi Arabia’s Fifth Wing, the main strike force against targets in Yemen, operates from King Khalid Air Base.[4]

The January 29 U.S. raid on an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquarters in central Yemen may have killed a local tribal leader.  Sayf al Joufi had traveled to the home of Abdell Raouf al Dhahab, a senior AQAP leader also killed in the raid, with a fifteen-man delegation to lobby for the release of a relative detained by AQAP.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants shelled areas near Villa Somalia, the Somali presidential palace, in Warta Nabada district, Mogadishu, on February 16. The militants fired at least five mortar shells that killed two people, wounded four others, and destroyed several houses. The attack occurred during a ceremony at Villa Somalia in which former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud transferred his presidential power from to incoming President Mohamed Abudullahi Farmajo. Al Shabaab militants shelled an area near the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu on February 7, the eve of the presidential election. Al Shabaab commanders have vowed to continue fighting the Somali government despite the change of presidential leadership. President Farmajo will be officially inaugurated on February 22.[6]

Three suspected al Shabaab gunmen assassinated a prominent clan elder, Muse Mohamed Roble “Ilko-weyne,” outside a mosque in Wadajir district in Mogadishu on February 15. Somali Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said that al Shabaab militants have targeted clan elders in Mogadishu in recent weeks for their involvement in electing members of the Somali Federal Parliament. Suspected al Shabaab gunmen shot and killed clan elder Abdullah Salad Hassan in Mogadishu on January 27. Both Roble and Hassan were members of the electoral college that voted for the current Federal Parliament.[7]

[1] “Saudi-led coalition to probe Yemen funeral airstrike,” The New York Times, February 16, 2017,, Mohammed Ghobari, “Plane strike hits Yemen mourners, killing nine women, 1 child: residents,” Reuters, February 16, 2017,, “Coalition vows to investigate allegations of the bombing of a house near Sana’a,” Sabanew, February 16, 2017,, and “Yemen: Saudi-Led Coalition Airstrike Near School,” Human Rights Watch, February 16, 2017,
[2] “U.S.’ Tillerson backs UN-led Yemen Process, Wants Unfettered Aid,” Reuters, February 16, 2017,, “Saudis voice optimism about relations with US under Trump,” McClatchy DC, February 16, 2017,, and “Meeting on Yemen,” Office of the Spokesperson of the Department of State, February 16, 2017,
[3] Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Simeon Kerr, “Iran calls for truce in Yemen,” Financial Times, February 15, 2017,
[4] “Saudi Air Defense intercepts missile fire by Houthis towards Khamis Mushayt,” Saudi Press Agency, February 16, 2017,, and “Missile forces fired ballistic missile at Abha Regional Airport in Asir,” Sabanews, February 15, 2017,
[5] Maggie Michael and Ahmen al Haj, “Pro-government tribal leader among dead in US raid in Yemen,” AP, February 16, 2017,
[6] “Al Shabaab Claims Mortar Attack Near Somalia Leader Ceremony,” New York Times, February 16, 2017,; “Two people killed and four others injured in mortar shell attack near presidential palace, Mogadishu,” Goobjoog News, February 16, 2017,; and “President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo to be inaugurated next week,” Goobjoog News, February 14, 2017,
[7] “Gunmen kill prominent elder in the capital Mogadishu, Garowe Online, February 16, 2017,
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