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 vetoes UK-proposed UN Security Council resolution condemning Iran; Saudi King reorganizes top military commanders

Horn of Africa: ISIS militants assassinate Somali prison guard in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region; Ethiopian Command Post instructs security forces to take serious measures against protesters; al Shabaab publishes interview with February 23 Mogadishu attack suicide bomber; al Shabaab militants assassinate former parliamentarian in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Russia vetoed a UK-proposed UN Security Council resolution that called for action against Iran for supplying the al Houthi movement with sophisticated weaponry on February 26. The UN unanimously adopted a rival Russian proposal that excludes a condemnation of Iran in order to extend current targeted sanctions on Yemen for one year. Eleven Security Council members voted in favor of the British proposal with China and Kazakhstan abstaining and Russia and Bolivia opposing. The UK implored member states not to shy away from condemning Iran. Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia defended Russia’s veto, claiming the British proposal would have escalated regional tensions and destabilized the Yemeni conflict. Nebenzia also reiterated his claim that the UN did not have sufficient evidence to prove Iran supplied the al Houthi movement with sophisticated weaponry. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley criticized Russia for blocking the British proposal and threatened to take unilateral action against Iran.[1] 

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud reorganized top Saudi military commanders and deputy ministers on February 26. King Salman replaced the Saudi Chief of Staff and the commanders of the Saudi air defense, land, and strategic missile forces. Former commander of the Saudi land forces Lieutenant General Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz al Saud was the only top military commander who was reassigned rather than retired by King Salman’s royal order. Saudi Defense Minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recommended the reorganization of Saudi military leadership.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency released a video showing ISIS militants assassinating a Somali prison guard in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on February 26. ISIS released another video of militants purportedly assassinating a Somali special forces member in Afgoi on February 8. ISIS has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Afgoi since January 2017 despite local officials’ denial that pro-ISIS militants are active in the area.[3]

The Ethiopian Command Post instructed security forces to “take all the necessary measures” against anti-government protests in the Oromia region on February 27. The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense claimed that protesters threatened Ethiopian parliamentarians to vote against the ratification of the six-month state of emergency. The Command Post also alleged that protesters threw hand grenades at security forces in Nekemte, western Oromia. Clashes between security forces and protesters killed one person and wounded several others. Members of the Ethiopian ruling party are set to meet on March 1 to ratify the state of emergency and elect a new prime minister.[4]  

Al Shabaab’s Radio Andalus released an interview with one of the suicide bombers who conducted a double suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack in Mogadishu on February 23. The suicide bomber voiced his loyalty to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and threatened future suicide operations on critical targets if security forces continued to target al Shabaab militants. Al Shabaab militants detonated two SVBIEDs targeting the Presidential Palace and National Intelligence and Security Agency in Mogadishu on February 23, killing at least 45 people and wounding dozens of others. The attack is the deadliest al Shabaab attack in 2018.[5]

Al Shabaab militants assassinated a prominent Somali elder in Mogadishu on February 26. Militants killed former Member of Parliament Mohamed Hussein Kahiye because of his youth outreach initiatives aimed at encouraging al Shabaab defectors to surrender to the Somali Federal Government. Defections from al Shabaab have increased since Mukhtar Robow, a founding member of al Shabaab, defected to the Somali Federal Government in August 2017.[6]

[1] “Russia vetoes UN resolution citing Iran sanctions violation,” AP, February 27, 2018,; Rick Gladstone, “Russia Vetoes U.N. Resolution to Pressure Iran Over Yemen Missiles,” New York Times, February 26, 2018,; and “Press Release: Ambassador Haley on Failure to Act to Hold Iran Accountable for Arms Embargo Violations,” United States Mission to the United Nations, February 26, 2018,; and Michelle Nichols, “U.S. threatens action against Iran after Russia U.N. veto,” Reuters, February 26, 2018,
[2] “Royal Order ends services of two senior generals, promotes six, and appoints them in senior posts,” Saudi Press Agency, February 26, 2018,
[3] “'Amaq Video Shows IS Assassination of Somali Policeman in Afgoye,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 26, 2018, available by subscription at; Harun Maruf, Twitter, February 26, 2018,; and “ISIS Video Purports Assassination Of Somali Police Near Mogadishu,” Radio Dalsan, February 27, 2018,
[4] “Ethiopia Authorities Order Security Forces to Quell Protests,” Bloomberg, February 27, 2018,; and “News: State of emergency command post says it no longer tolerates “anti-peace elements”; instructs security forces to take all necessary measures,” Addis Standard, February 27, 2018,
[5] “Pro-AQ TG Channel Summarizes Audio Interview with Shabaab Suicide Bomber from Feb 23rd Attack,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 26, 2018, available by subscription at; and “Alshabaab Identifies Second Suicide Bomber In Mogadishu Attack,” Radio Dalsan, February 27, 2018,
[6] “Al Shabaab Kill Prominent Somali Elder Involved In Outreach Efforts For Youths In Mogadishu,” Strategic Intelligence News, February 27, 2018,; and “Gunmen kill former electoral delegate outside Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, February 27, 2018,

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