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: UN Special Envoy to Yemen meets with GCC Secretary General to discuss new peace plan; al Houthi-Saleh forces shell village in northwest al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh naval mine detonates near Hadi government coast guard vessel; al Houthi-Saleh bloc accuses Saudi-led coalition of using cluster munitions in Sana’a governorate

Horn of Africa: AMISOM forces repel al Shabaab ambush near Mahaday, Middle Shabelle region; U.S. AFRICOM commander recommends expanding U.S. and AMISOM operations in Somalia; UAE to finalize deal with Puntland state for control of Boosaaso port in northern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief  

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdullatif bin Rashid al Zayani in Riyadh on March 9 to discuss the peace process in Yemen. Ould Cheikh Ahmed proposed a revised ceasefire plan. The plan includes a transfer of Yemeni peacekeeping troops from the First Military Region in northeastern Hadramawt governorate to the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, according to anti-al Houthi sources. This plan would also include the formation of a consensus government to administer Sana’a city and prepare an election process with the support of the U.S., the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Oman and Kuwait would serve as mediators during the process.[1]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces shelled al Quraishi district in northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen, on March 9. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) called on Sunnis to reinforce the al Qayfa area, which includes al Quraishi district, on March 9 following a multi-day barrage of U.S. airstrikes targeting the group. The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in multiple locations in al Quraishi on March 7.[2]

An al Houthi-Saleh naval mine destroyed a patrol boat from the Yemeni Coast Guard loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi on March 10, according to anti-al Houthi sources. The mine killed three sailors off the coast of Mokha district in Taiz governorate. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence warned on February 9 that al Houthi-Saleh naval mining threatens commercial ships traveling near Mokha port and the Bab al Mandab Strait.[3]

The al Houthi-Saleh bloc accused the Saudi-led coalition of dropping two cluster bombs near Nihm district in Sana’a governorate on March 10. Amnesty International reported on March 9 that Saudi Arabia used Brazilian-made cluster munitions on residential areas of Sa’ada city on February 15.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces repelled an al Shabaab ambush outside Mahaday town in Middle Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on March 9. The AMISOM forces were traveling from the El Baraf area toward Jowhar town as part of a convoy. AMISOM claimed to kill three al Shabaab militants and seize AK47 rifles, rocket propelled grenades, and medical supplies. Al Shabaab seized El Baraf, a key town between Jowhar and Mahaday, on March 8. Al Shabaab militants frequently ambush AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) forces along the road between Jowhar and Mahaday, located 100 kilometers north of Mogadishu.[5]

The commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Thomas Waldhauser, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the current situation in Somalia on March 9. General Waldhauser highlighted the significant progress made in combating al Shabaab and building Somali security capabilities. He warned that al Shabaab could still reemerge if famine conditions go unaddressed and Somali security forces fail to develop. AFRICOM is working with AMISOM and the Somali Federal Government (SFG) to postpone planned AMISOM force withdrawals from 2018 to 2019. Waldhauser also recommended that AFRICOM expand its supporting role in ongoing operations, shifting away from the current role that prioritizes a long-term train, advise, and assist mission. The U.S. currently deploys 50 Special Operations Forces (SOFs) in Somalia to support SNA and AMISOM operations. AFRICOM air forces have conducted one confirmed airstrike against al Shabaab militants in 2017.[6]

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is finalizing a contract with semi-autonomous Puntland state in northern Somalia to manage and develop the port at Boosaaso in Bari region. Boosaaso port is an important trade hub and refueling station for Emirati, Omani, Saudi, and Yemeni vessels in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Persian Gulf. The agreement follows a $442 million deal between the UAE and autonomous Somaliland in February 2017 that will allow the UAE to construct a military port in Berbera, located 500 kilometers west of Boosaaso. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) denounced the UAE-Somaliland deal over the issue of SFG sovereignty in the northern autonomous regions. The UAE recalled its ambassador to Somalia on March 5 after Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo appealed to Saudi Arabia to intervene against the Emirati base. The SFG alleges that UAE circumvented its authority and violated Somali sovereignty by negotiating these agreements.[7]

[1] “GCC Chief Receives UN Secretary-General’s Envoy to Yemen,” Saudi Press Agency, March 10, 2017,; “New Peace Plan: transfer of military brigades to Hadramawt to take over Sana’a,” Barakish, March 10, 2017,; “Quartet to oversee settlement in Yemen,” Barakish, March 10, 2017,
[2] “Al Houthis bombed two houses and a shop in al Quraishi Directorate province al Bayda.. no injuries,” al Masdar, March 9, 2017,
[3] “Sea mine explosion near coast of Mokha succeeds in martyring Coast Guard,” Aden Tomorrow, March 10, 2017,
[4] “Saudi aggression drop two cluster bombs on Nihm district,” Sabanews, March 10, 2017,; “Yemen: Saudi Arabia led coalition uses banned Brazilian cluster munitions on residential areas,” Amnesty International, March 9, 2017,  
[5] AMISOM, Convoy traveling from El Baraf to Jowhar encountered an al Shabaab ambush, Twitter, March 10, 2017,
[6] “United States Africa Command 2017 Posture Statement,” U.S. Armed Services Committee, March 9, 2017,
[7] “Puntland plans to transfer Boosaaso port to UAE,” Goobjoog News, March 10, 2017,; and Awad Mustafa, “UAE Envoy to Somalia Recalled to Abu Dhabi Over Base Dispute,” Mareeg, March 5, 2017,
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