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: Malaysian police source accuses al Houthi movement of attempting to assassinate Saudi king; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda attacks al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda, central Yemen; Saudi-led coalition discovers al Houthi-Saleh naval minefield near Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces launch ballistic missile toward Mokha, Taiz governorate

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab militants ambush KDF forces in Lamu County, Kenya; al Shabaab militants seize El Baraf town in Middle Shabelle region; senior al Shabaab commander and bomb expert surrenders in Bay region

Yemen Security Brief 

A senior Malaysian police source told Reuters that members of the al Houthi movement may have plotted to assassinate Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud in Malaysia. Malaysian police arrested four Yemenis between February 21 and 26 for allegedly planning a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack targeting the king, who is conducting a month-long tour of Asia. Malaysian Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar previously attributed the plot to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).[1]

ISIS Wilayat al Bayda militants claimed to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in multiple locations in northwestern al Bayda governorate on March 7. Wilayat al Bayda also distributed several photos of its militants firing a combination of small arms, heavy machine guns, and artillery pieces.[2]

The Saudi-led coalition claimed to discover an al Houthi-Saleh naval minefield off the coast of Midi district, Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen on March 8. The discovery came after one of the mines detonated beside a civilian fishing boat, killing eight people. Anti-al Houthi media claimed that the mines were Iranian-made. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence warned that al Houthi-Saleh naval mining threatens commercial ships traveling further south, near Mokha port and the Bab al Mandab Strait, on February 9.[3]

Al Houthi-Saleh forces launched a ballistic missile toward forces aligned with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government in Mokha city, Taiz governorate on March 8. Saudi-led coalition air defense systems intercepted the missile. Al Houthi-Saleh forces likely fired the missile from a launch station near the border of Ibb and Taiz governorates, roughly 100 km from its intended target.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief  

Al Shabaab militants conducted multiple IED ambushes targeting Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) in Lamu County, southeastern Kenya on March 7. The militants ambushed the Kenyan patrols near Sirira and Ishakan villages, located five kilometers from the Somali border. The blasts destroyed several armored vehicles, killed one KDF soldier, and wounded five others.[5]

Al Shabaab militants seized El Baraf town in Middle Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on March 8. Hundreds of militants seized the town without resistance soon after Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM forces withdrew. El Baraf is located 25 kilometers northeast of Mahaday in Middle Shabelle region. Al Shabaab militants temporarily seized Mahaday from SNA forces on December 17, 2016.[6]

A senior Al Shabaab commander and bomb expert, Hussein Salad Mukhtar, surrendered to SNA forces in Baidoa in Bay region, southern Somalia, on March 7. Al Shabaab frequently ambushes SNA and AMISOM forces in Bay region along the road between Baidoa and Burhakaba. AMISOM welcomed Mukhtar’s defection and urged other militants to do the same. The Somali government established an amnesty program for al Shabaab militants in 2015. Mukhtar is the fourth senior al Shabaab leader to surrender since December 2016.[7]

U.S. President Donald Trump called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 7. Presidents Trump and Kenyatta discussed their mutual dedication to combating terrorism and continued support for the stabilization efforts of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Pentagon recommended increasing U.S. airstrikes and Special Operations Forces (SOF) involvement in the fight against al Shabaab in February 2017.[8]

[1] A. Ananthalakshmi, Rozanna Latiff and William Maclean, “Malaysia says it foiled attack on Arab royalty ahead of Saudi king's visit,” Reuters, March 7, 2017,
[2] ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claims to attack al Houthi-Saleh forces in Qayfa, northwestern al Bayda, Dawaal Haq, February 7, 2017.
[3] “Hajjah: Dozens of Iranian-made mines detected off the coast of Midi,” Aden Lange, March 8, 2017,
[4] “Defense coalition intercepts a ballistic missile in the sky over Mokha,” Aden Lange, March 8, 2017,; “Defense coalition intercepted 3 ballistic missiles fired toward Mokha,” Sabanew, March 8, 2017,; and “Missile force targets gathering of invaders and mercenaries south of Mokha,” Sabanews, March 8, 2017,
[5] “KDF soldier killed, five injured in al Shabaab bomb attack,” Shabelle News, March 8, 2017,
[6] “Al Shabaab seizes town after Somali forces pullout,” Garowe Online, March 8, 2017,
[7] “AMISOM hails surrender of al Shabaab bomb expert,” Shabelle News, March 8, 2017,; and Nancy Agutu, “Al Shabaab top leader Hussein Mukhtar surrenders to Somali army,” The Star, March 8, 2017,
[8] “Readout of the President’s Call with President Uhuru Kenyatta,” The White House, March 7, 2017,; and Associated Press, “Pentagon Seeks to Expand Fight Against Extremists in Somalia,” New York Times, February 26, 2017,
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