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 forces conduct suicide boat attack on Saudi frigate in the Red Sea; ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan attempts to assassinate security officer in Aden; al Houthi-Saleh forces shell UN building in southern Saudi Arabia; AQAP militants detonate IEDs in al Bayda governorate; Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces kill AQAP commander; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim ballistic missile attack on Emirati base in Red Sea

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate IED near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab releases statement on Kolbio base attack; SNA announces offensive operation against al Shabaab in Gedo region

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted a suicide boat attack on a Saudi Medina-class frigate in the Red Sea near al Hudaydah port in western Yemen on January 30. If confirmed, this attack would be the first suicide operation by al Houthi-Saleh forces in the current conflict. Al Houthi media reported that the attackers fired a guided missile at the ship. U.S. defense officials said that analysts believe a suicide bomber rammed a small boat into the side of the Saudi ship, causing an explosion that killed two Saudi soldiers and wounded three others. Defense officials also stated that al Houthi-Saleh forces may have intended to target an American warship with this attack or an upcoming attack. The Saudi-led coalition responded to the bombing by conducting airstrikes on the Naval War College in al Hudaydah city on January 30.[1]
  • Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan attempted to assassinate the Deputy Security Chief of Aden, Fadal al Ra’ai, in al Mansoura district, Aden city on January 31. ISIS militants detonated an IED targeting al Ra’ai’s vehicle. The explosion wounded several members of the Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces. ISIS militants exchanged small arms fire with al Hizam security forces after the attack. ISIS Aden-Abyan last conducted two suicide vest attacks targeting security forces in Aden city in December, 2016.[2]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired Katyusha rockets at the UN’s De-escalation and Coordination Committee building in Dhahran al Janoub, Asir Region, southern Saudi Arabia on January 30. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed stated on social media that the attack struck a building in which negotiations to be held. Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that the bombing was “not a sign of good faith.”[3]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants claimed to detonate three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near al Jawf village, western al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on January 31. AQAP militants reported clashes with al Houthi-Saleh forces in the area after the IED attack. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) raided an AQAP headquarters in Yakal, north of al Jawf village on January 29.[4]
  • Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces killed AQAP commander Amar Ali Qa'id Mohammed, also known as Abu Ali al Lahiji, in a raid on his home in al Hawta city, northwestern Lahij governorate on January 31. Al Hizam security officials reported that Mohammed orchestrated an attack that killed 21 Yemeni security personnel in Lahij in March 2015. Al Hizam officials also claimed that Mohammed manufactured and planted IEDs throughout Lahij governorate. Mohammed escaped from a Sana’a prison with 29 other AQAP militants in February 2014.[5]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire a ballistic missile that struck Emirati forces on Zagar Island off the coast of Khawkah district, al Hudaydah governorate on January 31.  This report is not verified.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) that targeted Somali police and military personnel in a restaurant in Burane village near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region on January 30. The blast wounded seven people, including three soldiers. Somali security forces arrested dozens of people with alleged ties to the attack. Al Shabaab regularly targets Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Mahaday and the surrounding areas. Mahaday is located 100 kilometers north of Mogadishu.[7]
  • Al Shabaab released a formal statement claiming responsibility for killing more than 67 Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers in an attack on a base at Kolbio town, Lower Jubba region near the Somali-Kenyan border on January 27. Al Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency distributed the statement alongside pictures of corpses, as well as vehicles and weapons seized from the base. The statement noted that the attack occurred near the anniversary of a similar attack on a KDF base at El Adde on January 15, 2016. Al Shabaab militants killed more than100 KDF soldiers in the El Adde attack. Al Shabaab challenged the official casualty numbers released by the Kenyan government and demanded the withdrawal of KDF forces from Somalia. The Kenyan government reported only nine casualties in the Kolbio attack.[8]
  • The SNA announced the beginning of an offensive to drive al Shabaab militants from territory in Gedo region in southwestern Somalia. Al Shabaab regularly attacks AMISOM and KDF forces along the Somali-Kenyan border in Gedo and Lower Jubba regions. Al Shabaab militants raided a KDF base in Kolbio town in Lower Jubba region on January 27.[9]


[1] “Saudi frigate comes under terrorist attack west of Hudaydah by three Houthi suicide boats,” Saudi Press Agency, January 30, 2017,, “Invader navy warship target off the western coast of Yemen,” Sabanews, January 30, 2017,, “Alliance bombs Houthi positions in al Hudaydah,” Aden Lange, January 31, 2017,, and Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin, “Pentagon believes attack on Saudi frigate meant for US warship,” Fox News, January 31, 2017,
[2] “Targeting military vehicle in the Caltex roundabout with an improvised explosive device,” Aden Land, January 31, 2017,; and “IS Division in Yemen Claims Damaging Vehicle, Wounding Security Administration in Aden,” SITE, January 31, 2017, available via subscription at
[3] “Saudi soldier injured in Houthi shelling which targeted international base,” Aden Lange, January 31, 2017,, UN Envoy to Yemen, Twitter, January 30, 2017,, and UN Envoy to Yemen, Twitter, January 30, 2017,
[4] AQAP claims its militants detonated three IEDs and clashes with al Houthi-Saleh forces near al Jawf, Rada’a, western al Bayda governorate, Telegram, January 31, 2017.
[5] “Lahij security forces kill the largest al Qaeda leader of the governorate (who is Amar Qa’id) and what are his works?,” Aden Tomorrow, January 31, 2017,
[6] “Ballistic missile launched at invader forces on Zagar Island in the Red Sea,” Sabanew, January 31, 2017,
[7] “At least 7 injured in bomb explosion in Burane town,” Shabelle News, January 30, 2017,
[9] “Somali forces to launch offensive against al Shabaab in Gedo after Kenyan force attack,” Goobjoog News, January 29, 2017,
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