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: AQAP detonates SVBIED targeting Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in Zinjibar city, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; AQAP attacks al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; UN Security Council renews mandate of Panel of Experts and sanctions committee; Hadi government forces seize strategic Ikhtul town, Taiz governorate; Emirati soldier dies in Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to fire a missile toward Hadi government forces in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen

Horn of Africa: Somali President Farmajo appoints prime minister; President Farmajo travels to Saudi Arabia in first official trip abroad

Yemen Security Brief

 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) conducted a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack targeting a headquarters used by Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in Zinjibar city, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on February 24. The suicide bomber detonated the SVBIED near the entrance before militants with small arms stormed the headquarters. The attack killed at least seven al Hizam troops and two civilians, and injured eleven others. The attackers wore Yemeni military uniforms and used military equipment. Three AQAP militants died in the attack. AQAP media stated that the attack was in response to violations by the Emirati-backed al Hizam forces against Muslims and innocent civilians. Protesters called for the governor of Abyan to resign for failing to provide adequate security due to rampant corruption.[1]

AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a truck used by al Houthi-Saleh forces in the Qayfa area, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on February 23. AQAP militants also killed three al Houthi-Saleh troops in an ambush in nearby al Zuwab, northwestern al Bayda on February 24. AQAP and anti-al Houthi tribal militias seized Laqah village, just north of al Zuwab, on February 24, according to an AQAP-affiliated social media channel.[2]

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2342 on February 23 to renew the mandates of Yemen’s sanctions committee and the Panel of Experts until March 28, 2018. The sanctions committee is charged with authorizing sanctions against individuals who violate the arms embargo on the al Houthi-Saleh bloc. The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen investigates human rights violations and cases in which international actors break the UN arms embargo. The resolution also called for a political transition process led by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Yemeni Ambassador to the United Kingdom Yasin Said Numan celebrated the resolution as a departure from the “Kerry Initiative,” which offered al Houthi leadership a role in the post-conflict government in exchange for their disarmament.[3]

Forces aligned with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government seized a portion of Ikhtul village in northern Taiz governorate as part of Operation Golden Spear on February 24. Operation Golden Spear aims to seize Yemen’s western coast from al Houthi-Saleh forces. Pro-government social media accounts claim that popular resistance forces maintain control of southern Ikhtul. Ikhtul lies on the main road to al Hudaydah governorate, the Hadi government’s announced goal under Operation Golden Spear. Al Houthi-Saleh forces previously operated a missile launch site at Ikhtul.[4]

Emirati state media announced the death of an Emirati serviceman during the Saudi-led coalition’s Operation Restoring Hope in Yemen on February 24. Another Emirati soldier died during combat operations in Yemen on February 5.[5]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to launch a Zilzal-2 ballistic missile from Nihm district, Sana’a governorate towards Hadi government forces near Ma’rib Dam on February 24. Ma’rib Dam provides water for Ma’rib city and surrounding agricultural production in central Ma’rib governorate. Al Houthi-Saleh forces last struck Hadi government positions in Ma’rib governorate on February 10. This missile launch is unconfirmed.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo appointed Hassan Ali Khaire as Prime Minister on February 23. Khaire is the Africa director for Soma Oil & Gas and previously worked as the Horn of Africa director for the Norwegian Refugee Council. Somalia’s Federal Parliament must vote to confirm Khaire as prime minister. Somali citizens celebrated Farmajo’s selection and continued to demonstrate support for the new administration despite a recent uptick of al Shabaab attacks in the capital.

President Farmajo travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz during his first foreign visit as head of state on February 23. They discussed deeper bilateral relations between the two countries as well as Saudi assistance for the current humanitarian crisis in Somalia. Regional and international heads of state have celebrated President Farmajo’s election and pledged to support the new administration. Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta attended President Farmajo’s inauguration along with representatives from 121 other countries on February 22.[7]

[1] AQAP claims SVBIED and Inghimassi attack targeting al Hizam headquarters in Zinjibar, Abyan, Telegram, February 24, 2017; “Full details of the suicide attack on the security belt camp Abyan (names),” Aden Tomorrow, February 24, 2017,; “The attackers were dressed in military uniforms and protective bulletproof vests..the al Qaeda attack targeted the headquarters of security forces in Zanzibar belt,” Aden tomorrow, February 24, 2017,; and “Hundreds demonstrate in Zanzibar to demand the dismissal of the governor Saidi,” Aden Tomorrow, February 24, 2017,
[2] AQAP claims to detonate IED and ambush al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda, Telegram, February 23-24, 2017; and “Al Bayda resistance controls the "Hamma Laqah" and killed of rebels, including leader,” al Masdar, February 24, 2017,
[3] “The Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution calling for a political transition in Yemen,” al Masdar, February 24, 2017,; and “Yasin Said Numan comment on the new Security Council resolution on Yemen,” Barakish, February 24, 2017,
[4] “Yemeni resistance controls the coastal Ikhtul region,” al Jazeera, February 23, 2017,; and “Security forces continue demining and pursuing the remnants of the militias in Mokha,” Aden Lange, February 13, 2017,
[5] “UAE Armed Forces announces martyrdom of serviceman in Yemen”, Emirates News Agency, February 24, 2017,
[6] “Zilzal-2 launched at mercenaries near Ma’rib Dam,” Sabanews, February 23, 2017,
[7] “Somalia: New Prime Minister Appointed,” Stratfor, February 23, 2017,; Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Hundreds Take to the Streets in Mogadishu in Support of Hassan Ali Khaire, Somalia’s New PM,” Strategic Intelligence Service, February 24, 2017,; and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Somalia’s President Farmajo Jets in Saudi Arabia, Meets with King Salman in Riyadh,” Strategic Intelligence Service, February 24, 2017,

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