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: Al Houthi forces damage Saudi-led coalition F-15 aircraft in Sa’ada governorate; police arrest high-ranking member of ISIS in Aden; al Houthi forces launch a ballistic missile targeting Saudi ARAMCO facilities in southwestern Saudi Arabia; UN Special Envoy meets with Hadi government representative to discuss supporting STC and GPC; reported U.S. airstrike kills seven AQAP militants in Ma’rib governorate

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED in Mogadishu; Somali parliamentary committee calls on President and Prime Minister to remove troops from Lower House; al Shabaab leaders defect to SNA in Awdheegle, Lower Shabelle

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi movement forces damaged a Saudi-led coalition F-15 aircraft with a surface-to-air missile (SAM) in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on March 21. The Saudi-led coalition confirmed the warplane was hit but was able to return to base. Al Houthi media outlets distributed pictures and a video of what appears to be a R-27 SAM striking the warplane. Al Houthi forces also damaged a Saudi-led coalition F-15 with a SAM in early January 2018. [1]

Yemeni police arrested a local Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) leader during a raid on an ISIS safehouse in the Inma neighborhood, al Mansoura district, Aden city, southern Yemen on March 21. The police also seized a cache of explosive devices and documents from the safehouse. The ISIS militant admitted involvement in a complex explosive attack that targeted Emirati-backed forces in al Mansoura on March 13 and assassinations that targeted local security forces in al Mansoura on March 4. The spokesman of the Aden police reported that the seized documents and interrogation will allow counterterrorism forces to prevent multiple plots.[2]

Al Houthi movement forces launched a ballistic missile targeting Saudi Arabian Oil Company (ARAMCO) facilities in Najran province, southern Saudi Arabia on March 22. Al Houthi media claimed the missile was a new short-range ballistic missile dubbed the Badr-1. Al Houthi forces have launched at least eight ballistic missiles targeting Najran since January 1.[3]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths met former Hadi government Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah on March 21 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to discuss the Yemeni peace process and the importance of supporting the STC and fortifying the General People’s Congress (GPC) party. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi fired Bahah in 2016. Bahah supports the STC, which seeks greater southern autonomy. The GPC fractured after al Houthi forces killed former president and GPC leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017. Griffiths previously met with the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen and multiple high-ranking Hadi government officials after assuming his role on March 19.[4]

A reported U.S. airstrike killed seven al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Radwah area, south of Ma’rib city, Ma’rib governorate, northern Yemen on March 22, according to local sources. A reported U.S. airstrike killed three AQAP militants in Ma’rib governorate on March 19. [5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) outside a popular hotel in Mogadishu on March 22. Somali intelligence officials reported that the bomb was remotely detonated. The blast killed at least 14 civilians and injured over 20 others. Al Shabaab claimed that blast killed ten Somali security personnel. The VBIED blast occurred on Makka al Mukarama road, which is one of the busiest roads in Mogadishu and links the K4 district to the Somali parliament building. The blast targeted the Weheliye Hotel, where many members of parliament (MPs) reside. Al Shabaab has conducted two other VBIED attacks against Somali security forces in March 2018.[6]

An ad hoc committee of the Somali Parliament called on Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire to withdraw security forces from the parliament’s Lower House. The committee’s goal is to mediate the current political crisis between Prime Minister Khaire and Lower House Speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari. The Somali Federal Government deployed the forces on March 16 after MPs failed to pass a vote of no confidence against Jawari on March 14. Jawari allowed the motion to proceed and demanded the withdrawal of forces in a press conference on March 18. MPs called for the vote to be held at a neutral venue on March 20.[7]

The Somali National Army (SNA) claimed that two senior al Shabaab operatives defected to the SNA in Awdheegle, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on March 20. The militants defected after the SNA conducted a security operation in Awdheegle targeting al Shabaab leaders. SNA officials said that one of the defectors was a finance official and the other a leader in al Shabaab’s Amniyat Brigade, the group’s intelligence unit. Al Shabaab denied the SNA’s claim. Awdheegle is located near Mubarak, where a  U.S. airstrike killed two al Shabaab militants and injured three others on March 19. Al Shabaab defections have increased since U.S.-backed SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces intensified operations against al Shabaab in south-central Somalia since January 2018. [8]

[1] “Photos of the air defenses targeting an F-15 aircraft in Sa’ada governorate,” Saba, March 21, 2018,; “A coalition fighter was intercepted by an hostile air defense missile launched from Saada airport today, but the aircraft managed to return safe to base, report,” Saudi Press Agency, March 21, 2018,; and “Air defenses declare F-15 hit in Sa’ada,” Al Masirah, March 21, 2018; and “Air defense announce the damaging of an F-15 aircraft in the skies of Sa’ada,” Saba, March 21, 2018,
[2] “ISIL leader captured in Yemen in overnight raid,” The National, March 22, 2018,; Aden Police, Facebook, March 21, 2018,
[3] “Badr-1 ballistic missile targets Saudi Aramco in Najran,” Saba, March 22, 2018,; and “The launch of a new ballistic missile on Saudi Aramco in Najran,” Al Masirah, MArch 22, 2018,
[4] “Baha meets UN Envoy in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, March 21, 2018,; “The Saudi Ambassador is discussing with the UN envoy the support of international efforts to achieve a political solution in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, March 22, 2018,
[5] “U.S. raid kills seven al Qaeda members in Ma’rib,” Aden Tomorrow, March 22, 2018,
[6] “BREAKING: Huge explosion heard in the heart of Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, March 22, 2018,; “14 killed in Mogadishu hotel attack,” Goobjoog, March 22, 2018,; Harun Maruf, Twitter, March 22, 2018,; Mogadishu Update, Twitter, March 22, 2018,; Goobjog News, Twitter, March 22, 2018,; and “Shabaab Claims Car Bombing Outside Wehliye Hotel in Mogadishu,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 22, 2018, available by subscription at
[7] “Senate Seeks Farmaajo & Khaire To Order Withdrawal Of Military Police Before Jawari Motion,” Radio Dalsan, March 21, 2018,; and “Senate committee seeks withdrawal of new security team in L. House ahead of motion,” Goobjoog, March 21, 2018,
[8] “Somali forces arrest 2 Al-Shabaab senior operatives,” Xinhua, March 22, 2018,; “Heads of Al-shabab Fighters in Bay and Gedo Regions Defect to Somali Government,” Halbeeg, March 22, 2018,; and “Al-Shabaab top leaders in Gedo and Baay regions desert militants,” Hiiraan Online, March 22, 2018,

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