Special Security Forces (Yemen)

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Special Security Forces
قوات الأمن الخاصة
Emblem of the Yemeni Special Security Forces.svg
Active unknown - present
Country Yemen
Type Paramilitary
Size ~50,000
Engagements Al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen
2011 Yemeni uprising
Yemeni Crisis
Minister of the Interior Abdul Qader Qahtan
Chief-of-Staff Gen. Mohammed Mansour al-Ghadra
SSF flag Flag of the Yemeni Special Security Forces.svg
Former flag Flag of the Yemeni Central Security Organization.svg

The Special Security Forces (Arabic: قوات الأمن الخاصة‎‎) (formerly known as the Central Security Organization (Arabic: قوات الأمن المركزي‎‎)) is a paramilitary force in Yemen under the control of the Minister of the Interior, and forms a key part of the Yemeni security establishment.[1] The force is some 50,000 strong, and SSF units are equipped with a range of infantry weapons and armored personnel carriers. The force also has its own extrajudicial detention facilities.[2]


The CSO was originally founded as part of Yemen's efforts to combat al-Qaeda.[3]

In 2001 Yahya Saleh, the nephew of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, became Chief of Staff of the CSO. Under Yahya, the CSO became stronger, better paid, and better equipped. Yahya also oversaw the formation of the CTU, which was established with funding and training from the United States.[1]

Within hours of the 2012 Sana'a bombing, an attack by Ansar al-Sharia on units of the CSF, Yahya Saleh was dismissed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi through presidential decree.[4] Major General Fadhel Bin Yahiya al-Qusi replaced Saleh as the CSO's Chief of Staff.[5]

The Central Security Organization was renamed as the Special Security Forces following a presidential decree on 21 February 2013.

On 8 September 2014 President Hadi relieved General Fadhel Bin Yahiya al-Qusi of his command of the SSF, and appointed General Mohammed Mansour al-Ghadra in his place.[6]


Although nominally part of the Interior Ministry, the CSO under Yahya was largely autonomous, and is composed of two main parts; the Central Security Forces (CSF) and the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU). The CSF are paramilitary police that secure official buildings and infrastructure, as well as managing the dense network of security checkpoints on Yemen's highways. The CSF is also beginning to undertake covert countersurveillance at likely terrorist targets.[7]

In contrast, CTU is a far smaller force, comprising a 150-strong special forces unit that has been successful in undertaking raids throughout the country since 2003.[7]


Human Rights Watch has criticised the CSO, claiming that the organisation utilizes child soldiers and subjects Yemenis to arbitrary detention. Human Rights Watch has also alleged that CSF units deployed nearby had failed to prevent a killing spree carried out by pro-Saleh snipers on protesters in Sana'a on 18 March 2011, during the Yemeni revolution.[8]


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