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-Saleh faction used unmanned boat to attack Saudi warship on 30 JAN; al Houthi-Saleh forces conduct cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia; UN investigation documents human rights violations in Yemen war; AQAP attacks al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda releases photos of militants fighting al Houthi-Saleh forces

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab conducts SVBIED attack on market in Mogadishu; al Shabaab gunmen assassinate government officials and elders in Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants recapture Amara town in Mudug region

Yemen Security Brief

 Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, stated that al Houthi-Saleh forces used an unmanned remote-controlled boat to attack a Saudi vessel in the Red Sea on January 30. Donegan stated that the Iran supported the boat’s production “in some way.” Previous reports characterized the attack as a suicide boat improvised explosive device (IED) attack.[1] 

Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted a series of cross-border attacks into southern Saudi Arabia. Saudi air defense systems intercepted two al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missiles on February 17 and 18 over Samtah, Jazan region. Al Houthi-Saleh shells injured three civilians in al Tuwal village, Jazan, on February 20 and one civilian in Najran city, Najran region on February 18. An al Houthi-Saleh projectile also injured four Pakistani civilians in Najran city on February 21, according to Saudi officials. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to launch a Zilzal-3 ballistic missile into Jazan region on February 21. This attack is not confirmed. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed, falsely, to have “neutralized” Saudi Arabia’s air defense systems on a February 20.[2]

A UN investigation found that the Saudi-led coalition did not comply with international humanitarian law in the course of at least ten airstrikes conducted in Yemen, according to a report presented to the UN Security Council in late January. The report also stated that al Houthi-Saleh forces and Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces have violated international humanitarian law and human rights on multiple occasions.[3]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to fight against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen. AQAP militants claimed to seize an al Houthi-Saleh position in al A’abal village, Qayfa, northwestern al Bayda governorate on February 20. AQAP militants also claimed to assassinate an al Houthi-Saleh commander along the road between Damt and A'arfaf in al Dhaleh governorate on February 19. AQAP reported that the attack occurred in Ibb governorate. AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED), killing the commander and two other al Houthi-Saleh troops.[4]

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda released a series of pictures on February 16 highlighting its operations against al Houthi-Saleh force in Qayfa, western al Bayda governorate. Wilayat al Bayda published pictures of its militants firing several artillery pieces and small arms from entrenched positions, as well as studying the Quran. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda also claimed to shell al Houthi-Saleh forces in Qayfa on February 15.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) in the crowded Kawo Godey market in the Wadajir district of Mogadishu on February 19. The blast killed at least 39 people. Al Shabaab has intensified mass-casualty attacks and assassinations in Mogadishu in recent weeks in a campaign to reduce support for newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Senior al Shabaab official Hassan Yaqub Ali denounced President Farmajo for his American citizenship and threatened him with a “vicious war” during a radio broadcast on February 19.[6]

Al Shabaab gunmen assassinated three government officials in separate incidents in Mogadishu on February 18 and February 20. Al Shabaab gunmen killed a former government spokesman, Mohamed Omar Hagafey, in a drive-by shooting in Hodan district on February 18. Al Shabaab gunmen assassinated the former deputy head of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), Hassan Dheere, in a similar drive-by shooting in Hamar Jabjab district on February 18. Gunmen killed a pro-government clan elder, Abdi Ali Ibrahim, after storming his house in Hamar Jabjab district on February 20. Ibrahim took part in the electoral process to select Somalia’s Federal Parliament. Al Shabaab is conducting an assassination campaign targeting government officials and clan elders in retaliation for their participation in parliamentary and presidential elections.[7]

Al Shabaab militants recaptured Amara town in Mudug region in central Somalia after clashing with Galmudug State security forces on February 21. The recapture of Amara town follows an al Shabaab ambush on Galmudug State security forces in Adaley village, located on the outskirts of Amara town in southern Mudug region, on February 14. Al Shabaab militants killed 10 Galmudug soldiers in that attack. Galmudug forces seized Amara town from al Shabaab militants on July 17, 2016.[8]

[1] Christopher P. Cavas, “New Houthi weapon emerges: a drone boat,” Defense News, February 19, 2017,
[2] “Report: Yemen army announces restoring balance of missile deterrence,” Saba News, February 20, 2017,; “Saudi forces erupted a ballistic missile in the sky,” Ajel, February 19, 2017,; “Intercept a ballistic missile in the sky Jazan coming from Yemeni territory,” al Weeam, February 17, 2017,; “"Zilzal 3" rocket strikes Saudi army mercenary camp in Jazan,” al Masirah, February 21, 2017,; and “Yemeni resident injured from a military projectile launched from inside Yemen,” SPA, February 18, 2017,; “Injuring four residents following a military projectiles launched by the Houthi elements inside Yemeni territory,” SPA, February 21, 2017,; and “Wounding three citizens after the military launched projectiles Houthi elements inside Yemeni territory,” SPA, February 20, 2017,
[3] Letter dated 27 January 2017 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN, January 31, 2017,
[4] AQAP claimed its militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda and Ibb, Telegram, February 19-20, 2017.
[5] ISIS Wilayat al Bayda disseminates pictures of its forces in Qayfa, al Bayda, Dawal Haq, February 16, 2017/
[6] Farun Maruf, “Death Toll Rises to 39 in Mogadishu Blast,” Voice of America, February 20, 2017,; and “Shabaab Official Threatens New Somali President with Vicious War,” SITE Intelligence, February 19, 2017,
[7] “Gunmen kill prominent Elder in Somali Capital,” Shabelle News, February 21, 2017,; “Al Shabaab claims credit of killings in Somali Capital,” Shabelle News, February 18, 2017,
[8] “Al Shabaab fighters seize Amara village in Mudug region,” Garowe Online, February 21, 2017,
View Citations
Arrow down red
Mar '17
Feb '17
Jan '17