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 movement fires seven ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia; Iran supplies al Houthi movement with advanced IED technology; al Houthi official pledges to end ballistic missile attacks if Saudi-led coalition end bombing campaign; UN Special Envoy to Yemen meets with al Houthi foreign ministers in Sana’a; counterterrorism forces arrest three ISIS militants in Aden

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants detonate multiple IEDs targeting Somali security forces in Mogadishu; Ethiopian security forces arrest journalists and opposition members; deported Kenyan opposition lawyer returns to Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

The al Houthi movement fired seven ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia on March 25. Three missiles targeted Riyadh, two targeted Jizan city, and the others targeted Najran city and Khamis Mushayt city. Missile fragments killed an Egyptian civilian and wounded two others in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia claimed to intercept all seven missiles. One or more of Saudi Arabia’s Patriot PAC-2 missile defense systems may have failed based on online videos that recorded the missiles over Riyadh according to some missile experts. The al Houthi movement claimed to target King Khaled airport in Riyadh with a Borkan-2H missile and the Abha airport, west of Khamis Mushayt, with a Qaher-M2 missile. The U.S. Department of State condemned the attacks and affirmed support for Saudi Arabia to defend its borders on March 26.[1]

Iran supplied the al Houthi movement with sophisticated improvised explosive device (IED) technology, according to a March 2018 report from Conflict Armament Research (CAR). The CAR report found that the al Houthi movement is employing explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that match Iranian signatures found in similar devices used by Iranian-linked groups in Syria, Bahrain, and Lebanon. An EFP is an explosive device with a metal plate designed to penetrate armor. Al Houthi forces  camouflages IEDs and EFPs as natural rocks and triggers them using radio control (RC) and passive infrared (PIR) switches, according to the CAR report.[2]

Supreme Political Council President Saleh al Samad affirmed the al Houthi movement would stop firing missiles if the Saudi-led coalition stops its airstrike campaign during a celebration commemorating the three-year anniversary of the Yemeni civil war on March 26. Al Samad announced the commencement of a state building project to strengthen institutions through national laws that represent “the will of the people.” Al Samad also expressed hope that UN Special Envoy to the UN Martin Griffiths will act impartially and condemned U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition. Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi also condemned Saudi Arabia and the UAE for its airstrike campaign in Yemen during a televised speech on March 25.[3]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths met with the al Houthi movement Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah and Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein al Azzi in Sana’a on March 25. Abdallah stressed that confidence building measures including the payment of salaries to state employees and the reopening of the Sana’a International Airport are necessary for successful political negotiations. Al Azzi offered to fully support Griffiths’ tasks. Griffiths met with Hadi government officials in Riyadh on March 21 and 22.[4]

The Aden Security Department’s counterterrorism unit arrested three Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants in Aden city on March 25. The ISIS militants are suspected of belonging to a photography team that documented ISIS attacks in Aden. Members of the counterterrorism unit found high performance cameras, explosives, detonators, weapons, and photographs of suspected ISIS militants posing in front of the a black flag with the Shahada. Yemeni police arrested a local ISIS leader and seized a cache of explosives and documents in al Mansoura district, Aden city on March 21.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting Somali security forces in Mogadishu on March 25 and 26. Al Shabaab suicide bombers killed at least six people and injured several others with two separate suicide vehicle-borne IEDs (SVBIEDs) in Mogadishu on March 25. Militants detonated one SVBIED killing one person at a security checkpoint in Sinka Dheer, Kahda district, western Mogadishu. Al Shabaab militants detonated a second SVBIED targeting a security checkpoint in Sayidka junction near the Ministry of Interior, Lower House of Parliament, and Presidential Palace. Two separate al Shabaab roadside IEDs targeted security forces in Odweyne, Daynile district and on the 21 October road in Mogadishu on March 26. Al Shabaab conducted a vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) attack, killing at least 17 people and injuring dozens of others on Makka al Mukarama road outside Hotel Wehilye in Mogadishu on March 22.[6]

Ethiopian security forces arrested dozens of journalists and opposition leaders in cities across Ethiopia on March 25. Security forces arrested journalist Eskinder Nega, opposition politician Andualem Aragie, and several others in Addis Ababa, who Ethiopian authorities released in mid-February. Security forces accused the activists of violating the Ethiopian state of emergency, which prohibits the display of an Ethiopian flag that excludes the ruling party’s emblem in its center. Security forces arrested Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) officials in east and west Hararghe, Oromia region on March 25. Security forces also detained Amharic lawyers, university professors, and journalists in Bahir Dar, Amhara region, northwestern Ethiopia. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn released thousands of prisoners weeks before he resigned on February 15 following months of anti-government protests in the Oromia region. The Ethiopian ruling party is expected to elect a new prime minister this week.[7]

Kenyan National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna returned to Kenya on March 26 after authorities deported him to Canada. Kenyan immigration authorities attempted to bar Miguna from entering Kenya, demanding Miguna surrender his Canadian passport and requested he apply for a Kenyan visa. Miguna refused to comply with the immigration officials’ demands, claiming the officials were violating recent court orders. Authorities deported Miguna on February 6 for his role in the January 30 symbolic inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga and for his membership in the National Resistance Movement (NRM), which the Interior Ministry declared a criminal group on January 31. The Kenyan High Court demanded the return of Miguna and ruled the NRM was not a criminal group on February 26. A Kenyan court also ruled against the Kenyan government’s appeal to stop Miguna’s return on March 12.[8]

[1] “Saudi Arabia shoots down missiles from Yemen; one dead from debris,” Reuters, March 25, 2018,; “Houthi Missile Attacks in Saudi Arabia,” U.S. Department of State, March 26, 2018,; “Videos raise questions over Saudi missile intercept claims,” AP, March 26, 2018,; “Command of the Joint Forces of the Alliance for Support of Legitimacy Alliance in Yemen: Saudi Royal Air Force intercepts and destroys 7 ballistic missiles fired towards the Kingdom,” Saudi Press Agency, March 25, 2018,; and “Rocket force announced the implementation of large ballistic strikes on Saudi targets (expanded),” Saba News, March 26, 2018,
[2] “Radio-Controlled, Passive Infrared-Initiated IEDS,” CAR, March 2018,  
[3] “President al Samad announces the project of building the state and addresses the aggression: Stop your raids, stop our missiles,” Al Masirah, March 26, 2018,; and “The text of the speech of the Leader of the Revolution on the eve of the third anniversary of steadfastness in the face of aggression,” Saba News, March 25, 2018,
[4] “Foreign Minister Meets Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations,” Saba News, March 25, 2018,; and “Deputy Foreign Minister meets UN envoy to Yemen,” Saba News, March 25, 2018,
[5] “Police in Aden say they arrested an ISIS photography team,” Al Masdar, March 25, 2018,; and “Breaking: Aden Security: The arrest of a team of ISIS assassins in Aden,” Aden Lang, March 25, 2018,
[6] “Car Bomb Explodes in Somali Capital,” Voice of America, March 25, 2018,; “Car bomb kills 4, driver near parliament in Somali capital,” The Washington Post, March 25, 2018,; “Car bomb kills three near Interior HQs in Mogadishu,” Goobjoog, March 25, 2018,; “The death toll from Mogadishu car bomb attack rises to four,” Radio Shabelle, March 25, 2018,; “Two dead, 3 wounded in separate explosions in Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, March 26, 2018,; “2 Killed in Mogadishu IED Explosions,” Radio Dalsan, March 26, 2018,; “5 Killed In Twin Mogadishu Car Bombing,” Radio Dalsan, March 25, 2018,; “Huge car bomb explosion occurred in Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, March 25, 2018,; and “UPDATE: Three dead in large explosion targeting interior ministry,” Hiiraan Online, March 25, 2018,
[7] “Ethiopia re-arrests recently freed politicians, journalists,” Associated Press, March 26, 2018,; “News: Many detained by the army as crackdown intensifies in various cities across Ethiopia, among them recently released politicians and journalists,” Addis Standard, March 26, 2018,; “Ethiopia Arrests a Dozen Opposition Activists Over Flag Display,” Bloomberg, March 26, 2018,; “Ethiopia rearrests opposition leaders, journalists during 'prisoner release' celebrations,” March 26, 2018,, “Ethiopia re-arrests recently freed politicians, journalists,” The Washington Post, March 26, 2018,; “Prominent Dissidents Re-Arrested in Ethiopia,” Voice of America, March 26, 2018,
[8] “Miguna-Miguna returns from deportation,” Standard Media, March 26, 2018,; “Miguna arrives in Nairobi amid citizenship controversy,” Daily Nation, March 26, 2018,; and “Miguna Miguna denied entry after refusing to apply for Kenyan visa,” The Star, March 26, 2018,

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