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: Russian and Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministers discuss Russian veto in UN Security Council; Taiz-based GPC faction recognizes President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as party leader; Hadi government announces relocation of Aden-based Central Bank to Jordan; Saudi-led coalition intercepts al Houthi ballistic missile in Ma’rib governorate

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian parliament ratifies six-month state of emergency; al Shabaab seizes Bal’ad, Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab suicide bomber detonates SVBIED at military base in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region; Turkish parliament authorizes extension of military deployment in the Gulf of Aden

Yemen Security Brief

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov spoke with Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif on March 1 about Russia’s veto of a UK-proposed UN Security Council resolution on February 26. The British resolution called for action against Iran for supplying the al Houthi movement with sophisticated weaponry. The UN adopted a rival Russian proposal to extend current targeted sanctions on Yemen for one year.[1]

A Taiz-based faction of the General People’s Congress (GPC) party in central Yemen recognized President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as head of the GPC on February 28. The GPC fractured after al Houthi forces killed former president and GPC party leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017. The Taiz-based GPC faction affirmed its objective to defeat the al Houthi movement and promised to “punish” GPC members who support the al Houthi movement. The faction elected Taiz Deputy Governor Aref Jamal as the GPC leader for Taiz governorate. Jamal has previously mediated conflicts involving an AQAP-affiliated brigade in Taiz city.  A Sana’a-based GPC faction that organized in January and cooperates with the al Houthi movement denounced the Taiz-based GPC faction on March 1.[2]

The Hadi government announced that Yemen’s Aden-based Central Bank will move to Amman, Jordan on March 1. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed Mohammed Zemman as the new governor of the Yemeni Aden-based Central Bank that will operate from Amman, Jordan on February 18. The Hadi government moved the Yemeni Central Bank from Sana’a to Aden in September 2016, fracturing Yemen’s banking infrastructure.[3]

The Saudi-led coalition intercepted an al Houthi movement ballistic missile near Ma’rib city, Ma’rib governorate, northern Yemen on March 2. The al Houthi movement also fired a ballistic missile at Ma’rib city on March 1. The al Houthi movement has fired at least 4 ballistic missiles at Ma’rib in the past month.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Ethiopian parliament ratified a six-month state of emergency in an emergency vote on March 2. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling coalition comprised of four region-based parties, controls all of the seats in parliament. Some parliamentarians from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) voted against the state of emergency, citing their fear of human rights abuses by security forces. Ethiopian security forces fired on peaceful protesters in the Oromia region after the Ministry of Defense cracked down on protests against the state of emergency on February 27. The Ethiopian Council of Ministers initiated the state of emergency on February 16, one day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in response to months of anti-government protests among the Oromo and Amhara populations. The EPRDF is expected to announce a new prime minister to replace Desalegn within the next week.[5]

Al Shabaab militants took control of Bal’ad, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia from Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces on March 2. Al Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency confirmed the seizure of the town. Al Shabaab lost Bal’ad to SNA and AMISOM forces in June 2012. Al Shabaab conducted several attacks targeting security forces in the city in late 2017. Bal’ad is a strategic town located about 20 miles north of Mogadishu that connects central Somalia to the capital.[6]

An al Shabaab suicide bomber detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) at a SNA military base in Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on March 2. Al Shabaab and SNA forces engaged in a gunfight following the blast. Al Shabaab claimed that the attack killed over 80 soldiers. Afgoi is located at a crossroads on the highways that connect Mogadishu and southern Somali cities like Baidoa and Kismayo.[7]

Turkey’s parliament approved an extension of the Turkish military deployment in the Gulf of Aden, Somalia, and the Arabian Sea on February 7. The authorization extended the deployment through February 2019. Approximately 200 Turkish military personnel deployed to Somalia to train SNA forces in Somalia in October 2017. The Turkish parliament has authorized the extension of deployments in the region ten times since 2008.[8]

[1] "Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister discussed Russia's veto on UN resolution on Yemen,” RIA, March 1, 2018,
[2] “The Taiz Conference recognizes Hadi as leader of the party and pledges to execute Saleh’s will in an effort to rearrange his ranks in confrontation of the Houthi coup,” Asharq Al-Awsat, March 2, 2018,; “Leaders of the Congress Party in Taiz adopt sanctions against members loyal to the Houthis,” Al Mawqea, March 1, 2018,; “The Taiz Conference held an extraordinary meeting and elected a new leader,” Yemen Window, February 28, 2018,; “Sana’a Conference accuses people of splitting the line,” Hour News, March 1, 2018,; “In a special statement, Jamal accuses leader of the Taiz axis of an assassination attempt and blocking the truce committee,” Masa Press, November 28, 2017,
[3] “Yemen is moving to consolidate the work of the Central Bank and move its headquarters to Jordan,” Al Masdar, March 1, 2018,; “International efforts to unify the work of the Central Bank and transfer its headquarters to Jordan,” Barakish, MArch 1, 2018,; and “Yemen is moving its Central Bank to Jordan,” Al Araby, March 1, 2018,
[4] “Air defense intercept a ballistic missile in Marib,” Aden Lang, March 2, 2018,; and “Interception of Houthi ‘ballistic missile’..launched at morning prayers,” al Arabiya, March 2, 2018,
[5] “Ethiopia's parliament ratifies emergency rule imposed after PM's resignation,” Reuters, March 2, 2018,; and “News: Ethiopian law makers approve controversial state of emergency,” Addis Standard, March 2, 2018,
[6] “Alshabaab Captures Bal’aad From Govt Forces,” Radio Dalsan, March 2, 2018,; “Al-Shabaab launch twin attacks in Afgooye and Bal’ad towns,” Goobjoog, March 2, 2018,; and “Al-Shabaab takes control of Bal’ad town from Somali forces,” Radio Shabelle, March 2, 2018,
[7] “BREAKING: Two dead after suicide car bomb hits military base,” Hiiraan Online, March 2, 2018,; “Suicide bomber rams car into Somali military base - military,” Reuters, March 2, 2018,; “3 Killed As VBIED Blast Hits SNA Afgoye Base,” Radio Dalsan, March 2, 2018,; “Suicide bomber rams car into Somali military base in Afgoye,” Radio Shabelle, March 2, 2018,; and “Shabaab Claims Killing 80+ Somali Soldiers and 4 South African Trainers in Suicide Bombing in Afgooye, Seizing Control Over Bal'ad,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 2, 2018, available by subscription at
[8] “Turkey okays extended force deployment in Gulf of Aden,” Anadolu Agency, February 7, 2018,; and “Turkey to deploy forces in the Gulf of Aden,” Jowhar, February 12, 2018,

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