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: Iran increases materiel support for al Houthi-Saleh forces; al Houthi-Saleh forces use UAVs to disable coalition air defenses; Hadi government official criticizes UN over handling of al Hudaydah port

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED near presidential palace in Mogadishu; al Shabaab distributes food aid in Lower Shabelle region; Turkish President Erdogan to travel to Mogadishu to open military base in April

Yemen Security Brief

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani met with IRGC officials in Tehran to discuss opportunities for Iran to increase its involvement in Yemen, according to a March 22 Reuters report. Iran provides many of the advanced weapons used by al Houthi-Saleh forces in Yemen and has increased arms shipments in recent months. Iran also provides Afghan and Arab advisors and technical specialists to al Houthi-Saleh forces.[1] 

Al Houthi-Saleh forces are using Qasef-1 offensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to disable Saudi-led coalition Patriot air defense systems before launching ballistic missile attacks, according to a March 2017 report by Conflict Armament Research (CAR). Emirati forces reportedly intercepted a truck carrying six Qasef-1 offensive UAVs in central Ma’rib governorate on November 27, 2016. The al Houthi-Saleh Defense Ministry revealed Qasef-1 UAVs at an exhibition in Sana’a on February 26, 2017. The drones seized in November are “near-identical” in design and construction to the Iranian-made Ababil-II family of offensive UAVs, according to CAR.[2]

The Hadi government’s ambassador to the UN, Khaled al Yemani, criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for refusing to assume jurisdiction over al Houthi-Saleh-controlled al Hudaydah port in western Yemen on March 22. Yemani defended the Saudi-led coalition’s embargo of al Hudaydah port and accused the UN of allowing the al Houthi-Saleh faction to hoard international aid. Saudi-led coalition spokesperson Major General Ahmed Asiri responded to the UN’s refusal on March 22 by stating that coalition and Hadi government forces would control al Hudaydah port “today or tomorrow”. The current front line on Yemen’s western coast is roughly 80 miles south of al Hudaydah port.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at a military checkpoint located near the National Theatre in Mogadishu, only a half mile from Villa Somalia, on March 21. The blast killed at least 10 people, including seven Somali soldiers. The attack occurred hours after Somali Prime Minister Ali Hassan Khaire announced the names of his cabinet appointments during a press conference at Villa Somalia. 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.[4] 

Al Shabaab distributed food aid to more than 200 families in Barawe town in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia on March 21. Al Shabaab-linked Shahada News Agency released photographs of the group distributing the aid. Al Shabaab has increasingly publicized humanitarian aid distribution in Lower Shabelle and Galgudud regions in recent weeks.[5]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he will visit to Somalia to attend the opening of a military base in Mogadishu in April 2017. The Turkish government funded the construction of the $50 million base. Turkish armed forces will use the base to train Somali and African Union troops. Turkey has strengthened relations with Somalia through infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance, and security cooperation. Turkey competes with Gulf states like the UAE for strategic influence in Somalia and the Horn of Africa region.[6]

[1] Jonathan Saul, Parisa Hafezi, and Michael Georgy, “Exclusive: Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen's war - sources,” Reuters, March 22, 2017,
[2] Jamie Dettmer, “Iran steps up supplies to Houthis, including ‘Kamikaze drones,” Voice of America, March 22, 2017,
[3] “Yemen’s Ambassador to the UN deplores the UN position on Yemen,” Aden Lange, March 22, 2017,; “Yemeni UN Delegate criticizes UN,” Barakish, March 22, 2017,; and “Asiri: al Hudaydah port will return to legitimate authorities,” Barakish, March 22, 2017,
[4] Abdi Guled, “Car Bomb Kills 6 Near Somalia Presidential Palace,” Associated Press, March 21, 2017,; “10 Killed in Mogadishu Explosion Near Villa Somalia After Cabinet Announced,” Radio Dalsan, March 21, 2017,
[5] Al Shabaab Distributes Food Aid in Lower Shabelle Region, Facebook, March 21, 2017,
[6] “Turkish President to open a military base in Mogadishu,” Garowe Online, March 18, 2017,
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