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. airstrikes kill former Guantanamo Bay detainee in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; ISIS-linked Yemeni militants attempt to assassinate Saudi king in Malaysia; Saudi-led coalition delivers armor to Hadi government forces in western Yemen; President Hadi speaks at Jakarta summit

Horn of Africa: UN Secretary-General António Guterres travels to drought-stricken Somalia; UAE recalls ambassador from Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

A U.S. airstrike killed Yasir al Silmi, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee also known as Mohammed Tahar, in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on March 2. The airstrike also killed Usayd al Adani, AQAP’s emir of Abyan governorate and an explosives expert. The U.S. released al Silmi on December 19, 2009 as part of a repatriation program. Guantanamo Bay interrogators stated in an official warning in March 2008 that al Silmi expressed violent extremist tendencies and was classified as a “high” threat.[1]

Four Yemeni militants linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) plotted to assassinate King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 26. Malaysian authorities arrested seven men with alleged links to ISIS between February 21 and 26. King Salman is currently on a month-long tour of Asia.[2]

Saudi-led coalition warships delivered tanks and armored vehicles to Mokha port on March 7 in support of Operation Golden Spear. Operation Golden Spear is a Hadi government offensive that aims to seize Yemen’s western coast from al Houthi-Saleh forces and deny the al Houthi-Saleh faction access to key Red Sea ports. Al Houthi-Saleh forces are preparing to defend the coast of al Hudaydah governorate, the next step in the Hadi government’s campaign, from coalition warships. Al Houthi-Saleh forces reportedly placed naval mines around Mokha port in late January 2017 to disrupt coalition naval operations.[3] 

Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoke before the Indian Ocean Rim Association summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 7. President Hadi requested developmental and medical assistance for Yemen. Hadi also stated that “some countries” provide weapons to al Houthi-Saleh forces in defiance of international law.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

UN Secretary-General António Guterres traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia on March 7 to meet with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and discuss emergency humanitarian assistance for millions of Somalis threatened by severe drought and impending famine. Guterres appealed for $825 million to provide aid to more than 5.5 million people in Somalia, about half of the total population. Guterres said that massive support from the international community would be necessary to avoid repeating the 2011 famine, when more than 250,000 people died. He also warned that terrorist activity from al Shabaab would escalate if international assistance falls short. Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced on March 5 that 110 people died due to cholera and starvation within a 48 hour span in Bay region in southern Somalia. The UN estimates that drought conditions are threatening more than 20 million people across Africa and the Middle East.[5] 

The UAE recalled its ambassador to Somalia, Mohammed Al Hammadi, to Abu Dhabi on March 4 in response to demands by the Somali government to halt construction of a UAE military port in Somaliland. The Somali Federal Government asserts that the construction agreement violates Somali sovereignty and is therefore illegal. Somalia and Somaliland have quarreled over issues of sovereignty and regional autonomy for decades. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asked Saudi Arabia to stop the construction of the Emirati base, but Saudi Arabia has not responded to his appeal.[6]

[1] Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Air Campaign in Yemen Killed Guantánamo Ex-Prisoner,” The New York Times, March 6, 2017,; and “Muhammaed Yasir Ahmed Taher,” The New York Times,
[2] Yantoultra Ngui, “Islamic State Targeted Saudi Royals in Malaysia,” The Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2017,
[3]“Heavy weapons land in Mokha port,” Aden Lange, March 7, 2017,; “Navy discusses tasks to repel aggression forces approaching from the west coast,” Sabanews, March 6, 2017,; and Cmdr. Jeremy Vaughan, USN and Simon Henderson, “Bab al-Mandab Shipping Chokepoint Under Threat,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 1, 2017,
[4]  “In a speech to the IORA Hadi says that the continued support for the coup by some countries increases the suffering of the people,” Aden Lange, March 7, 2017,; and “President of the Republic: Yemen is facing one of the most complex humanitarian disasters,” Sabanew, March 7, 2017,
[5] Hussein Mohamed and Sewell Chan, “UN Chief, Visiting Somalia, Pleads for Aid to Avert Famine,” New York Times, March 7, 2017,; and Katharine Houreld, “UN head: drought-stricken Somalia needs help to avoid famine,” Reuters, March 7, 2017,
[6] Awad Mustafa, “UAE Envoy to Somalia Recalled to Abu Dhabi Over Base Dispute” Mareeg, March 5, 2017,
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