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: Russia proposes UN resolution to rival British-proposed resolution on Yemen; ISIS militants conduct complex attack on counterterrorism headquarters in Aden; UAE announces start of Operation Decisive Sword against AQAP in Shabwa governorate; Aden official calls on residents to protest UAE presence in Yemen

Horn of Africa: SNA and AMISOM forces conduct security operation after al Shabaab attack in Mogadishu; Kenyan High Court rules that opposition movement is not a criminal group; Ethiopian security forces detain recently released Oromo leadership; EU NAVFOR repels Somali pirate attack off the coast of Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Russia proposed a UN Security Council resolution on February 25 that rivals a British-proposed resolution on Yemen. Russia’s resolution extends current targeted sanctions on Yemen for one year but excludes a condemnation of Iran. The UK, U.S., and France drafted a resolution on February 21 that expands ballistic missile sanctions and condemns Iran for violating an arms embargo on the al Houthi movement. A redrafted British resolution now expresses concern over the UN Panel of Experts report that Iran failed to stop missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles from reaching the al Houthi movement. The UN Security Council will vote on the resolution on February 26.[1] 

Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants conducted a complex attack against a counterterrorism headquarters in al Tawahi district, Aden on February 24. ISIS militants detonated two suicide vehicle-borne improvised devices (SVBIEDs) at the entrance of the headquarters before assaulting the headquarters with small arms. Security forces repelled the attack. Local sources reported that one of the ISIS militants was a member of the 22nd mechanized brigade in Taiz.[2]

The UAE launched “Operation Decisive Sword” to clear AQAP militants from al Said district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen on February 26. Emirati air and ground forces are supporting Shabwani Elite Forces in the operation. The UAE launched the operation after Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces announced the end of an operation to clear AQAP from the parts of neighboring Hadramawt governorate on February 18. Shabwani Elite Forces claimed to have cleared al Said district in early January 2018.[3]

The Director General of al Buraiqeh district Hani al Yazidi called on Aden residents to demonstrate against Emirati-backed security forces in Aden on February 25. Al Yazidi accused the UAE of fragmenting Yemen by creating separate military factions in southern Yemen. The UAE currently supports the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and counterterrorism forces in nearly all southern and eastern governorates. Yemeni Transportation Minister Saleh al Jabwani stated that the UAE ordered the Shabwani Elite Forces to block his convoy from reaching the opening of a new port in Balhaf city, Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on February 25. Sources from the Shabwani Elite Forces accused al Jabwani of working with Qatari intelligence services.[4] 

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces directed a security crackdown in Mogadishu on February 25 in response to an al Shabaab attack in the capital on February 23. Joint forces detained hundreds of suspected al Shabaab sympathizers and operatives in Heliwa District on February 26. The Somali Minister of Internal Security also banned soldiers from carrying heavy weapons and barred troops without proper clearance from entering the capital. Al Shabaab conducted a double suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack targeting the Presidential Palace and Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) headquarters that killed over 45 people on February 23.[5] 

The Kenyan High Court ruled that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is not a criminal group on February 26. The Kenyan Interior Ministry designated the NRM as a criminal group on January 31, the day after opposition leader Raila Odinga swore a symbolic presidential oath to challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta. The court also ordered the Director of Immigration to reinstate opposition lawyer and NRM member Miguna Miguna’s passport and allow him to return to Kenya. The court ruled Miguna’s deportation illegal on February 15. The government appealed the ruling on February 20.[6]

Ethiopian security forces detained recently released Oromo leaders in Nekemte, Oromia region, western Ethiopia on February 24. The detainees include opposition leader Bekele Gerba, whom authorities released on February 13. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned on February 15 after pardoning thousands of political prisoners, including Gerba, in response to sustained anti-government protests. The Council of Ministers declared a six-month state of emergency on February 16, prohibiting unauthorized public gatherings and authorizing widespread arrests.[7]

European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR) repelled a pirate attack on a chemical tanker off the coast of Somalia on February 23. The tanker was travelling from Oman to Cape Town, South Africa when it was attacked approximately 184 miles off the coast of Somalia. The pirate attack is the first since November 2017, according to EU NAVFOR. Piracy surged in 2011, when pirates conducted over 230 attacks off the coast of Somalia.[8]

[1] “Russia sets stage for U.N. veto of western bid to call out Iran,” Reuters, February 25, 2018,
[2] “At least 14 dead in attack on Yemen counter-terrorism base,” Reuters, February 24, 2018,; “Five people killed and 31 wounded by suicide attack on a security headquarters in Aden,” Al Masdar, February 24, 2018,; and “Children among 14 dead in Yemen ISIL attack,” The National, February 25, 2018,; “Media sources reveal the identity of the suicide bomber who attacked the anti-terrorist headquarters in Aden, Aden Lang, February 26, 2018,
[3] “‘Operation Decisive Sword’ launched in Yemen,” Emirates News Agency, February 26, 2018,; and “Yemeni Elite Forces purge al Said district in Shabwa from al Qaeda,” Okaz, January 10, 2018,    
[4] “Yemen minister accuses UAE of trying to fragment his country,” Washington Post, February 26, 2018,; “Government officials call on residents of Aden to demonstrate against the presence of Belt Security Forces in Aden,” Al Masdar, February 25, 2018,; and “For these reasons, the elite forces blocked the opening of Qena port,” Aden Lang, February 25, 2018,
[5] “Somali forces carry out joint security operation in Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, February 26, 2018,; “Somali government bans carrying heavy weapons in Mogadishu,” Hiiraan Online, February 26, 2018,; “No entry to Mogadishu without clearance, govt orders army in Shabelle regions,” Goobjoog, February 26, 2018,; “Somali government declares major security crackdown in Mogadishu,” Goobjoog, February 25, 2018,; “Mogadishu On High Alert After Attack,” Radio Dalsan, February 25, 2018,; “Somali PM demands Intensified Security,” Voice of America, February 25, 2018,; and “Death toll from Somalia blasts rises to 45,” Reuters, February 23, 2018,
[6] “Immigration ordered to issue Miguna with travel documents back to Kenya,” Standard Media, February 26, 2018,; “ Court orders Matiang'i, Kihalangwa to facilitate Miguna's return,” The Star, February 26, 2018,; and “High Court orders Miguna Miguna's return from Canada,” Daily Nation, February 26, 2018,
[7] “News: Standoff as security forces detain recently released opposition politicians, including Dr. Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba, near Nekemt in western Ethiopia,” Addis Standard, February 24, 2018,; “Ethiopia federal forces detain recently released Oromo leaders,” Africa News, February 24, 2018,; and “Ethiopia discloses details of state of emergency period restrictions,” Xinhua, February 21, 2018,
[8] “Chemical tanker repulses pirates attack off Somali coast,” Goobjoog, February 24, 2018,; “Chemical tanker attacked off Somalia, pirates repelled, says EU Naval force,” Radio Shabelle, February 24, 2018,; “Somali Pirates Attack On Tanker Repelled By EU Navy Forces,” Radio Dalsan, February 24, 2018,; and “EU NAVFOR confirms MT Leopard Sun attacked 160 nautical miles off the central coast of Somalia,” EU NAVFOR Somalia, February 23, 2018,

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