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: Helicopter attacks Sudanese refugee boat near al Hudaydah governorate; AQAP and ISIS clash with al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen; Defense Secretary Mattis meets Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Washington; al Houthi-Saleh forces launch ballistic missile at Saudi Aramco and multiple missiles at Hadi government forces in eastern Taiz governorate; UAE convicts Emirati national for joining ISIS in Yemen

Horn of Africa: Somali pirates release crew of hijacked oil tanker without ransom; Malaysia sending humanitarian aid and security forces to fight famine

Yemen Security Brief

 An Apache helicopter attack killed at least 31 Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen’s northwestern al Hudaydah governorate on March 17. The boat of refugees was heading toward the Bab al Mandab strait en route to Sudan. Al Houthi-Saleh–controlled hospitals in al Hudaydah governorate admitted roughly 80 survivors, according to the United Nations International Organization for Migration. The Saudi-led coalition did not claim the attack and denied carrying out operations in the area during the time of the CorrectionA previous version of the Gulf of Aden Security Review identified the Apache helicopter as a "Saudi-led coalition helicopter." The helicopter's nation of origin is not confirmed.strike.[1]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen on March 16. AQAP militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces with small-arms fire near Jebel Milh, al Zahir, southern al Bayda governorate. AQAP militants also claimed to kill an al Houthi-Saleh commander in Haqab in northern al Dhaleh governorate near the Ibb governorate border on March 16. The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack in western al Bayda governorate on March 16.[2]

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford met with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Washington, DC, on March 16. The pair discussed the fight against ISIS and the geopolitical conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region.[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a Scud missile toward the Jazan Aramco Plant in Jazan region, Saudi Arabia, on March 17. Saudi Patriot air defense systems intercepted the missile near the Saudi-Yemeni border. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to launch two BM-27 Uragan missiles and a ballistic missile at Hadi government forces stationed in eastern Mokha district, Taiz governorate, on March 17. Hadi government forces are attempting to seize Camp Khaled ibn Walid in the area. Camp Khaled ibn Walid is an al Houthi-Saleh military base from which al Houthi-Saleh forces can disrupt Hadi government forces advancing northward toward al Hudaydah governorate as part of Operation Golden Spear.[4]

The Abu Dhabi federal appeals court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced an Emirati national to ten years in prison for joining a Yemeni affiliate of ISIS on March 15. Emirati-backed forces are currently fighting ISIS in southern and central Yemen.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Somali pirates who seized the Aris 13 oil tanker released the ship without a ransom on March 16. Puntland state elders and officials engaged in negotiations with the hostage-takers after naval forces engaged smugglers accused of supplying the hijackers in Haabo, northeastern Bari region on March 14. Local security forces surrounded the hijackers’ compound in Alula, Puntland state, and negotiated for the eight Sri Lankan hostages’ release with the assistance of local clan elders. The Puntland government reportedly granted the pirates immunity. The hijacking on March 13 was the first such successful attempt since 2012, and was reportedly inspired by local frustration over illegal fishing.[6]

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced that Malaysia will send soldiers to Somalia to assist in distributing humanitarian aid on March 17. Somali Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Omer requested the Malaysian Defense Ministry's assistance amidst growing concerns of drought and famine in Somalia. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain also contributed aid.[7]

[1] Maha El Dahan and William Maclean, “At least 31 Somalis killed in raid off Yemen coast,” Reuters, March 17, 2017,
[2] AQAP militants claimed to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda and Ibb governorates, Telegram, March 17, 2017; and ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack in western al Bayda governorate, Dawaal Haq, March 16, 2017.
[3] “Readout of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' Meeting with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman,” U.S. Department of Defense, March 16, 2017,; and Eric Beech, “Pentagon chief, Saudi deputy crown prince discuss fight against Islamic State,” Reuters, March 16, 2017,
[4] “Breaking: missile forces fired a medium-range ballistic missile at Jizan,” Sabanews, March 17, 2017,; “Ballistic missile and Uragan missiles target invaders and mercenaries in Eastern Mokha,” Sabanews, March 17, 2017,; and “Ballistic missile intercepted over Jizan,” Aden Lange, March 17, 2017,
[5] “Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeals issues judgements against several defendants in security-related hearings,” Emirates News Agency, March 15, 2017,
[6] Harun Maruf, “Somali pirates release oil tanker, crew without ransom,” Voice of America, March 16, 2017,; Harun Maruf, “Somali force fires on boat trying to supply hijacked tanker,” Voice of America, March 16, 2017,; and “Pirates release oil tanker and its crew without ransom,” Goobjoog News, March 17, 2017,
[7] “Malaysia to send troops to Somalia on humanitarian mission,” Goobjoog News, March 17, 2017,; and “Malaysia to send troops to Somalia on humanitarian mission,” Hiiraan Online, March 17, 2017,

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