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 Defense Ministry promotes drone program; AQAP attacks al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims to control Laqah village in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien meets with President Hadi and announces aid plan; UN OCHA reports massive civilian displacement as Hadi government forces advance northward on Yemen’s western coast
Horn of Africa: Pentagon recommends greater military involvement in Somalia; suspected al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED in Mogadishu; suspected al Shabaab gunmen assassinate government officials in Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants prematurely detonate VBIED in Middle Shabelle region
Yemen Security Brief
The al Houthi-Saleh Defense Ministry held an exhibition in Sana’a to showcase drone capabilities on February 26. The Ministry claimed that every drone was developed and manufactured in Yemen. The origin of the drones is not confirmed. Three of the four announced drones are intended for surveillance, while the fourth carries a 30kg warhead. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al Mikhlafi accused Iran of providing offensive drone capability to al Houthi-Saleh forces on February 9.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants continued operations against al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen. AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in Ba’adan district, eastern on February 25. AQAP militants also detonated an IED targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in neighboring al Nadirah district, eastern Ibb on February 26. AQAP militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces with small arms fire in Hammat Sarar, northwestern and fired Grad rockets at al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Jawf, southwestern al Bayda, on February 26.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to seize Laqah village in northwestern , central Yemen on February 24. AQAP and anti-al Houthi tribal militias also claimed to seize Laqah on February 24. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to destroy an al Houthi-Saleh barracks in the attack. Wilayat al Bayda released several pictures and a video compilation that showed militants attacking al Houthi-Saleh forces. The pictures include possible still images of drone footage. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda also claimed to target al Houthi-Saleh forces with artillery fire in al Quraishi district, northwestern al Bayda on February 26.
President Hadi met with UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien in Aden to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Yemen on February 26. Under-Secretary-General O’Brien plans to visit various locations in to survey the humanitarian situation and assess aid distribution networks. O’Brien announced on February 26 that the United Nations will launch a relief campaign for Yemen on April 25 to provide food, water, and medicine to Yemen.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced on February 25 that at least 25,000 people in Mokha and Dhubab districts in Taiz governorate fled to and in recent months. The report added that an additional 44,000 were internally displaced in Taiz governorate. These civilians were displaced as a result of the Hadi government’s Operation Golden Spear, which aims to seize Yemen’s western coast from al Houthi-Saleh forces. Hadi forces advanced north to the village of Zahari, Mokha district, on February 26 after taking control on the larger village of Ikhtul.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
The Pentagon submitted recommendations to the White House for expanding U.S. operations in Somalia to combat al Shabaab. The recommendations would allow U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) to increase cooperation with the Somali National Army (SNA) and loosen restrictions on airstrikes against al Shabaab targets. U.S. President Donald Trump recently requested a plan from the Pentagon to accelerate U.S.-led operations against ISIS, al Qaeda, and other Salafi-jihadi organizations. The head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Thomas Waldhauser, characterized Somalia as the most perplexing challenge facing U.S. counterterrorism strategy during an interview with the Associated Press. AFRICOM has reduced the number of airstrikes in Somalia in the past six months. AFRICOM has conducted one confirmed airstrike in Somalia in 2017.
Suspected al Shabaab militants conducted a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack at a security checkpoint in Ex-Control Afgoi junction in on February 27. Two militants drove the vehicle toward the checkpoint before exiting and opening fire. The militants fled and then detonated the VBIED while soldiers searched the vehicle. The blast killed one Somali soldier and injured four others. Al Shabaab has conducted multiple VBIED attacks in Mogadishu in recent weeks in an effort to weaken Somali security forces inside the capital. Al Shabaab militants killed at least 68 people in separate VBIED attacks in Waberi and Wadajir districts in Mogadishu on January 25 and February 19.
Suspected al Shabaab gunmen assassinated several Somali government officials in on February 25 and 26. Two gunmen shot and killed Mohamed Omar, a top intelligence official in Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), outside a mosque in Hamar Jabjab district on February 25. Suspected al Shabaab gunmen assassinated Abdulkadir Qasim Mursal, a former Somali parliamentarian and current employee in the office of Somali Speaker Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari, in the Dharkenley district on February 26. Gunmen shot and wounded Osman Kheyre, a clan elder who participated in Somalia’s parliamentary elections, in Mogadishu on February 26. Al Shabaab has intensified an assassination campaign targeting government officials and clan elders in recent weeks. The campaign is intended to punish those who participated in Somalia’s parliamentary and presidential elections.
Al Shabaab militants prematurely detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) inside a vehicle near Biyo Caddle village in Middle Shabelle region in central Somalia on February 25. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Twitter accounts claimed that 17 al Shabaab militants died in the accidental explosion. Al Shabaab frequently conducts IED ambushes on AMISOM forces in Middle Shabelle region.
 “MoD announces: the production of drones will begin after successful field testing,” Saba News, February 26, 2017, http://www.saba.ye/ar/news457379.htm; Four new locally made Yemeni drones unveiled, Twitter, February 26, 2017, https://twitter.com/tonytohcy/status/835830632366256132; Yemeni planes with reconnaissance and attack capabilities, YouTube, al Masirah, February 26, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J7Lpb_OgAg; and “Mikhlafi; Shi’ite Iran supplied aircraft capable of launching missiles,” Barakish, February 9, 2017, http://barakish.net/news02.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=455978.
 AQAP militants claim attacks targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in Ibb and al Bayda governorate, Telegram, February 26-27, 2017.
 ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims its militants seized Laqah village, al Bayda, Dawaal Haq, February 25 and 27, 2017; and “ IS Division in Yemen Claims Killing and Wounding Dozens of Houthi Elements in Qifa,” SITE, February 24, 2017, available by subscription at ent.siteintelgroup.com.
 “President receives Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs,” Aden Lange, February 26, 2017, http://adnlng.com/news/63229/; and “UN will launch Yemen aid campaign on April 25,” Aden Lange, February 27, 2017, http://adnlng.com/news/63287/.
 “Escalating conflict on Yemen’s Western Coast - Flash Update #2,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, February 25, 2017, http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/escalating-conflict-yemen-s-western-coast-flash-update-2-25-february-2017-enar; “Zahari controlled after army advance towards al Hudaydah,” Barakish, February 26, 2017, http://www.barakish.net/news02.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=456671.
 “Pentagon seeks to expand fight against al Qaeda extremists in Somalia,” Fox News, February 26, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/26/pentagon-seeks-to-expand-fight-against-al-qaeda-extremists-in-somalia.html.
 “Car bomb wounds three in Somali capital,” Reuters, February 27, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-blast-idUSKBN1661EL?il=0; and Omar Nor, At least 1 dead, four Soldiers wounded in car bomb blast, Twitter, February 27, 2017, https://twitter.com/Omaar_nor/status/836201381363085312.
 “Al Shabaab gunmen kill NISA officer in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, February 25, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/02/somalia-nisa-officer-shot-dead-in-mogadishu/; “Ex MP shot dead in Mogadishu, an elder wounded,” Garowe Online, February 26, 2017, http://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-ex-mp-shot-dead-in-mogadishu-an-elder-wounded.
 “AMISOM: 17 al Shabaab fighters died in IED blast,” Shabelle News, February 25, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/02/amisom-says-17-al-shabaab-fighters-died-in-ied-blast/.