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: Saudi-led coalition bombs market in Khawkah city, al Hudaydah governorate; U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN condemns Saudi-led coalition blockade of Sana’a airport and al Hudaydah port; President Hadi refuses to discuss ceasefire proposal with UN envoy; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims multiple attacks targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; AQAP claims first attack  since U.S. airstrikes in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire multiple ballistic missiles at Hadi government targets in Ma’rib, Taiz, and al Jawf governorates

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates two SVBIEDs in Mogadishu; U.S. military may increase operations in Somalia; SNA soldiers protest in Mogadishu over unpaid wages; UK to donate $19.6 million in drought aid to Somalia; al Shabaab car bomb targets journalist in Mogadishu; SNA forces repel al Shabaab attack in southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 16 people at a qat market in Khawkah city, al Hudaydah governorate on March 10. The airstrikes were likely intended to weaken al Houthi-Saleh forces stationed in Khawkah district before an advance by forces aligned with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government. Hadi government forces are attempting to seize key ports on Yemen’s western coast. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi condemned the strike on March 12 and stated that the UN must take responsibility for the crisis in Yemen.[1]

U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Michele J. Sison addressed the UN Security Council on March 10. Ambassador Sison emphasized that U.S. policy in Yemen supports the distribution of aid throughout Yemen, including ports blockaded by the Saudi-led coalition in al Hudaydah governorate. Ambassador Sison also stated that the Saudi-led coalition’s closure of Sana’a airport complicates international relief efforts and must be lifted. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien also called for the coalition to lift the blockades in February 2017. Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Washington D.C. to discuss the Yemen crisis with U.S. President Donald Trump on March 16.[2]

Yemeni President Hadi refused to receive a ceasefire plan proposed by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on March 11. Ould Cheikh Ahmed requested a meeting in Riyadh to discuss a temporary cessation of hostilities on March 11. President Hadi declined the meeting. Hadi’s Director of the Office of the Presidency, Abdullah al Alimi, offered to meet with Ould Cheikh Ahmed instead. Ould Cheikh Ahmed refused to meet with al Alimi and demanded to meet with President Hadi. The Hadi government has stated that it will not seek a political solution to the war in Yemen until it seizes all ports from the al Houthi-Saleh faction. [3]

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed multiple attacks targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in western al Bayda governorate between March 10 and 12. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces with small arms and artillery fire in al Quraishi district, northwestern al Bayda on March 10; Amar area, southern al Bayda on March 11; and Khubza area, western al Bayda on March 12. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) called on Sunnis to reinforce the western al Bayda front on March 9 following five consecutive days of U.S. airstrikes targeting the group.[4]

AQAP militants attacked Hadhrami Elite Forces, an Emirati-backed counterterrorism force, in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on March 10. AQAP militants fired Grad rockets at Hadhrami Elite Forces in al Ghabar district, southwestern Hadramawt. This attack is the first claimed by AQAP since the U.S. conducted five consecutive days of airstrikes between March 2 and 6 in Yemen.[5]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired ballistic missiles at Hadi government forces on multiple fronts. Al Houthi-Saleh forces launched five ballistic missiles toward Mokha district, Taiz governorate on March 12. Saudi-led coalition air defense systems intercepted the missiles. Hadi government forces in Taiz are attempting to seize Yemen’s western coast. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also targeted Hadi government forces taking part in a campaign to advance on Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. Coalition forces intercepted an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile targeting Hadi government forces in Ma’rib governorate, central Yemen, on March 11. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire Grad rockets at Hadi government targets in Ma’rib. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also claimed to conduct a successful “Zilzal-2” ballistic missile attack against Hadi government forces in northern al Jawf governorate in northern Yemen on March 13. This attack is not confirmed.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab detonated two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIED) targeting a hotel and a military base in Mogadishu on March 13. Somali security forces interdicted the first SVBIED at a security checkpoint outside of a military base in Wadajir district, Mogadishu. Militants detonated a second SVBIED detonated two hours later outside of the Wehliye Hotel in central Mogadishu, killing as many as 13 civilians and wounding 14 others. Al Shabaab claimed the attack and stated that it killed 30 government officials and wounded 40 others. Al Shabaab last conducted VBIED attacks in Mogadishu on February 27. [7]

The Trump administration is expected to lift some restrictions on conducting airstrikes and Special Operations Forces (SOF) operations in Somalia. The Pentagon proposal would designate parts of Somalia as “areas of active hostility” for 180 days, allowing U.S. Africa command (AFRICOM) to exercise greater autonomy to target al Shabaab militants. The Pentagon submitted recommendations to increase U.S. operations in Somalia on February 27.[8]

Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers protested in response to unpaid wages in Mogadishu on March 12. Hundreds of Somali soldiers, some of whom were armed, blocked the main streets of Mogadishu for several hours. The Somali Federal Government has not paid soldiers’ wages for the past 15 months. New President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo promised to prioritize wage payments to soldiers and police during his campaign.[9]

The British Government pledged $19.6 million to help avert famine in Somalia on March 13. This pledge is the first step in a comprehensive anti-famine aid package that will provide Somalia with $171.4 million in aid. The humanitarian crisis in Somalia is rapidly worsening. Half of Somalia’s population faces acute food insecurity caused by drought.[10]

A suspected al Shabaab car bomb critically wounded a journalist working for Universal Television in Mogadishu on March 12. Universal Television is a satellite news organization based in of London that serves the Somali diaspora. Freedom House ranks Somalia among the most dangerous countries for journalists.[11]

SNA forces repelled an al Shabaab attack on a base in Shalanbod district, Lower Shabelle region on March 11. Al Shabaab has intensified operations against AMISOM forces in strategic towns in southern Somalia in recent months. [12]

[1] Shuaib al Mosawa and Ben Hubbard, “Yemen Market Airstrike Kills at Least 16 People,” The New York Times, March 11, 2017,; and “Iran Condemns the bombing of a popular market in al Hudaydah,” al Masirah, March 12, 2017,
[2] Ambassador Michele J. Sison, U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations, “Remarks at a Security Council Briefing on Yemen, South Sudan, and Somalia,” U.S. Department of State, March 10, 2017,; and “Top Saudi Prince to Meet Trump in White House Visit,” The Associated Press, March 13, 2017,
[3] “Yemeni President rejects request of Ould Cheikh Ahmed to suspend military operations,” Aden Lange, March 11, 1017,
[4] ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims multiple attacks targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, Dawaal Haq, March 10-12, 2017.
[5] AQAP claims its militants attacked Hadhrami Elite Forces in al Ghabar, Hadramawt, Telegram, March 11, 2017.
[6] “Alliance Patriot air defense system intercepts 5 missiles over Mokha,” Aden Lange, March 12, 2017,; “Alliance intercepts rockets over the skies of Ma’rib,” Aden Lange, March 11, 2017,; “Four grad missiles launched at mercenary gathering in Ma’rib,” Sabanews, March 13, 2017,; and “Zilzal-2” launched at mercenaries in camp al Silan, al Jawf,” Sabanews, March 13, 2017,
[7] “Shabaab Claims Killing 30, Wounding 40 in Mogadishu Car Bombing Near Weheliye Hotel,” March 13, 2017, Available by subscription at SITE Intelligence; “Somalia hit by deadly car bomb,” Africa News, March 13, 2017,; “13 Killed, 14 injured in Somalia car bomb,” Reuters, March 13, 2017,; “Death toll from Mogadishu car bomb blast rises to 10,” Shabelle News, March 13, 2017,; Twin explosions kill at least 11 in Mogadishu, al-Shabaab claims responsibility, Goobjoog, March 13, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review-February 27, 2017,” Critical Threats, February 27, 2017,
[8] Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, “Trump Administration Is Said to Be Working on Loosen Counterterrorism Rules,” NYT, March 12, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review-February 27, 2017,” Critical Threats, February 27, 2017,
[9] Abdi Sheikh, “Hundreds of Somali soldiers protest in Mogadishu over unpaid wages,” Reuters, March 12, 2017,; and “Mutinous forces barricade Mogadishu’s main streets,” Shabelle News, March 12, 2017,
[10]“UK allocates 16 million to response Somalia drought,” Shabelle News, March 13, 2017,
[11]“Somali Journalist critically wounded in car bomb blast,” Shabelle News, March 12, 2017,; and “Somali government vows those behind Sunday car bomb must face the law,” Goobjoog, March 13, 2017,
[12]“SNA forces repel al-shabab in Shalanbood attack,” Shabelle News, March 11, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review-March 6, 2017,” Critical Threats, March 6, 2017,

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