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: U.S. pledges to increase defense cooperation and intelligence sharing with Saudi-led coalition; UNHCR condemns attack on Somali refugees and requests inquiry; AQAP clashes with al Houthi-Saleh forces in central al Dhaleh governorate; UN rejects Saudi-led coalition request for supervisory operation in al Hudaydah port; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire ballistic missile into southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants raid Somali Ministry of Defense headquarters in Mogadishu; al Shabaab gunmen shoot and kill several civilians in Mogadishu area; starvation and disease kill 140 people in Somalia this month; Somali Prime Minister appoints cabinet members

Yemen Security Brief

The United States pledged to increase intelligence sharing and defense cooperation against the al Houthi-Saleh bloc in Yemen, according to a statement by Saudi-led coalition spokesman General Ahmed Asiri on March 17. Asiri gave the statement in Washington, D.C. during a week of meetings between Saudi defense officials and senior members of the Trump administration. President Trump met Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on March 14 to discuss the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts in Yemen. U.S. officials did not confirm Asiri’s statement.[1] 

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi condemned the March 16 helicopter attack that killed 42 Somali refugees on the Red Sea near al Hudaydah governorate. Grandi requested an inquiry into the incident on March 20. Grandi also called for ceasefire negotiations to start as soon as possible. The Emirati government conducted an initial investigation of the attack and did not find that Emirati forces participating in the Saudi-led coalition were responsible. The Emirati government invited an independent international investigation into the incident on March 20.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants attacked al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen on March 20. AQAP militants claimed to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) that killed two al Houthi-Saleh troops and injured four others on the border between al Dhaleh and Ibb governorates. AQAP militants last claimed an attack in this area on March 16. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to arrest two suspected Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda militants in nearby western al Bayda governorate on March 21. Wilayat al Bayda and AQAP militants frequently cooperate against al Houthi-Saleh forces in in al Bayda governorate.[3]

The UN rejected a request by the Saudi-led coalition to assume jurisdiction over al Houthi-Saleh-controlled al Hudaydah port. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Farhan Haq responded to the request by stating that the major actors in Yemen cannot shift responsibility for the humanitarian crisis to others.[4]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile into southern Saudi Arabia on March 20. Al Houthi-Saleh media claimed that the missile targeted Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Military city in Khamis Mushait, Jazan region. Saudi air defense systems intercepted the missile over the city of Abu Aresh. Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire four ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia in March 2017.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants raided the Somali Ministry of Defense headquarters in Deynile district in northern Mogadishu on March 20. At least 20 heavily armed militants detonated multiple grenades before opening fire on the compound. Hundreds of Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers are stationed within the Defense Ministry headquarters. Neither al Shabaab nor the SNA disclosed any casualties. The group continues to conduct mass-casualty attacks in an effort to degrade Somali security capabilities in the capital. Al Shabaab detonated two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) that killed more than 30 government and military officials in Mogadishu on March 13.[6] 

Al Shabaab militants shot and killed several civilians in Mogadishu and surrounding areas on March 20. Al Shabaab executed clan elder Osman Elmi in Awdheegle village in Lower Shabelle region, located 25 miles southwest of Afgoi town. The militants publicly executed Elmi, a delegate involved in Somalia’s federal election process, by firing squad in front of hundreds of local residents. Suspected al Shabaab gunmen also assassinated a civilian, Muheydin Amadi, in Yaqshid district in Mogadishu. The motive for the assassination is unknown. Al Shabaab is conducting an assassination campaign to punish clan elders and government officials for their involvement in Somalia’s recent elections.[7]

Twenty-six Somalis died of starvation in the last 36 hours in Jubbaland state in southern Somalia, according to government-owned Radio Mogadishu. Jubbaland residents claim that al Shabaab controls the most affected towns. Starvation or disease has killed more than 140 people in March 2017. The UN estimates that $863.5 million is needed to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 6.2 million Somalis. The chairman of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, pledged to donate $100,000 in assistance during an official visit to Somalia on March 18. U.S. actor Ben Stiller also raised nearly $2 million through a social media campaign partnered with Turkish Airlines and the American Refugee Committee.[8]

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire appointed 26 ministers to his cabinet on March 21. Prime Minister Khaire named Abdirahman Duale Beyle, a former economist at the African Development Bank and Somali foreign minister from 2014 to 2015, as finance minister. Khaire also appointed Yusuf Garaad Omar, a dual British-Somali national and BBC journalist, as foreign minister. The Somali Federal Parliament will vote on the appointments on March 30.[9]

[1] “Saudi general says Trump administration vows support against Iran,” The Washington Times, March 17, 2017,
[2] “UNHCR condemns refugee deaths off Yemen, calls for inquiry,” UNHCR, March 20, 2017,; and “Statement of Armed Forces official source on refugee boat incident,” Emirates Press Agency, March 20, 2017,
[3] AQAP claims to detonate an IED in A’arfaf area, al Dhaleh. central Yemen, Telegram, March 21, 2017; and “Arrested two terrorist elements in al Bayda governorate,” Saba News, March 21, 2017,
[4] “UN rejects coalition call to supervise Yemen port,” al Arabiya, March 21, 2017,
[5] “Breaking: a medium-range ballistic missile strikes Faisal Military City in Abu Arish, Jazan,” Sabanews, March 20, 2017,; and “Air defenses intercept ballistic missile over Jazan,” Aden Lange, March 20, 2017,
[6] “Al Shabaab attacks Defense HQ in Mogadishu, two elders killed,” Garowe Online, March 21, 2017,; and “Several Grenade blasts heard in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, March 20, 2017,
[7] “Al Shabaab executes elder involved in election,” Shabelle News, March 20, 2017,; and “Gunmen shoot dead civilian in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, March 20, 2017,
[8] “Somalia: 26 starve to death in drought,” BBC News, March 21, 2017,; Ludovica Iaccino, “140 people have starved to death in Somalia since beginning of March,” International Business Times, March 21, 2017,; Ismail Akwei, “AU donates $100,000 towards Somalia drough relief, $863.5m needed,” Africa News, March 20, 2017,; and Sarah Lansdown, “Turkish Airlines to Send Supplies to Somalia after Social Media Campaign,” Huffington Post, March 20, 2017,
[9] Abdi Sheikh, “Somalia’s New Prime Minister Names 26-Minister Cabinet,” US News and World Report, March 21, 2017,; and “Somali PM unveils new cabinet,” Shabelle News, March 21, 2017,
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