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.{{authorBox.message}}



The Gulf of Aden Security Review will resume on Monday, November 29, 2021.

Yemen: STC reaches agreement with Saudi Arabia; Saudi airstrikes target Sana’a twice; Saudi forces dismantle al Houthi naval mines; leaked video shows possible IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah advisors at Sana’a airport

Somalia: Ugandan police arrest Somali national with a detonator in Kampala; al Shabaab overruns base in southwestern Somalia; Somali security forces arrest al Shabaab militants smuggling explosive devices into Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

The Southern Transitional Council likely reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to prioritize fighting the al Houthi movement.[i] The STC president met with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen in Riyadh on November 16.[ii] The agreement stipulates that STC-aligned forces will withdraw from Shoqra district in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen. STC-aligned forces deployed near Shoqra district to counter Islah influence on November 2.[iii]

Saudi forces conducted two sets of airstrikes on November 23 and 24. Saudi airstrikes targeted al Houthi missile sites near al Nihden and Dhahban neighborhoods in Sana’a on November 23.[iv] Saudi media claimed the November 24 strikes targeted drone factories in Thawra district, Sana’a.[v] Iranian media said the airstrikes targeted a plastics factory.[vi]

Saudi forces dismantled eleven al Houthi naval mines in the Red Sea between November 19 and November 24.[vii]

The Saudi-led coalition released a leaked video allegedly showing Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) or Lebanese Hezbollah advisors at Sana’a International Airport on November 22.[viii] The al Houthi Security and Intelligence Service began investigating the leak on November 24.[ix]

Somalia Security Brief

Ugandan police arrested a Somali national with a detonator in the Munyonyo area of Kampala, Uganda, on November 23.[x] Security forces discovered the device in the car of 25-year-old Abdul Kareem Mayowu. Muhammad Hassan, a 28-year-old Somali national, hired Mayowu to pick up his family from the Speke Resort Hotel. Police have also arrested close contacts of the pair, including at least two other Somali nationals.[xi] The Islamic State’s Central Africa Province has claimed multiple bombings in Kampala since early October.

Al Shabaab briefly seized a base used by federal and Southwest state forces about 15 miles south of Baidoa, the capital of Bay region in southwestern Somalia, on November 23.[xii] Heavily armed al Shabaab militants stormed the base for several hours and forced Somali soldiers to retreat.[xiii] Security forces returned and retook the base later the same day and claimed to kill 15 al Shabaab militants.[xiv]

Somali security forces arrested three suspected al Shabaab militants trying to smuggle improvised explosive devices into Mogadishu near Afgoi, about 17 miles from the capital, on November 23.[xv] Police claim to have been tracking the three suspects before the arrests.

[i] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “A new agreement between the legitimate government and the Southern Transitional Council…and the withdrawal of all forces from Abyan and Aden,” November 23, 2021,

[ii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “The Transitional Council reveals the new agreement with Saudi Arabia,” November 16, 2021,

[iii] Al Masirah, “Failure of ‘Riyadh Agreement’, STC sends four military brigades to Abyan,” November 2, 2021,

[iv] Al Jazeera, “The coalition announces the implementation of airstrikes on targets in Sana’a,” November 23, 2021,; and Reuters, “Saudi-led alliance attacks sites in Yemen’s Sanaa,” November 23, 2021,

[v] Al Arabiya, “Arab coalition bombs drone sites in Yemen’s Sana’a: Report,” November 24, 2021,; and Reuters, “Saudi-led coalition bombs drone sites in Yemen’s Sana’a – state media,”

[vi] Al Alam, “4 Yemenis were killed and injured in a raid of the coalition of aggression on Sana’a,” November 24, 2021,

[vii] SMANews, “The Arab coalition destroys naval mines deployed by the Houthi militias in the Gulf waters,” November 24, 2021,

[viii] Muhammad al Dhabiyani, Twitter, November 22, 2021,

[ix] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “After a video clip of military actions was leaked, details of Houthi referral of Sana’a airport employees for investigation,” November 24, 2021,

[x] Garowe Online, “Uganda arrests Somali national with detonator in Kampala,” November 23, 2021,

[xi] Mohamed Adan, “Uganda arrests 4 Somalis linked to discovered detonator,” Somali Dispatch, November 23, 2021,

[xii] Abdirasak Tuuryare, “Somalia: Al-Shabab seizes military base after dawn attack,” Mareeg, November 23, 2021,

[xiii] Istar Cabdi Yuusuf, “Al-Shabaab announces takeover of Deynunay,” Caasimada, November 23, 2021,

[xiv] Goobjoog, “SNA reclaims base ‘overrun’ by Al-Shabaab in Bay region-military,” November 23, 2021,

[xv] Abdirasak Tuuryare, “Somali security forces arrest al Shabab suspects in operation,” Mareeg, November 23, 2021,

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Yemen: Al Houthis claim to launch 14 drones in eighth Balanced Deterrence attack; al Houthi drone targets Najran airport; Saudi Arabia reinforces border with Yemen; Saudi-led coalition warns al Houthis may disrupt Red Sea trade

Somalia: Al Shabaab suicide bomber kills state radio director; drought worsens in southwestern Somalia; al Shabaab IED targets market in southwestern Somalia; Somali prime minister replaces foreign minister

Yemen Security Brief

The al Houthi movement claimed to launch fourteen drones at military and Aramco targets in Saudi Arabia on November 20.[i] This is the eighth attack that the al Houthis have claimed as part of the “ Balanced Deterrence” operation. The al Houthi spokesman said that the group launched four Sammad-3 drones at King Khalid airbase in Riyadh. It is unclear if this statement refers to the airbase by this name in Asir province in southern Saudi Arabia or the airport in Riyadh. The al Houthi spokesman also claimed that the group launched one Sammad-3 drone at a military installation at Abha International Airport and Five Qasef-2k drones at military facilities in Abha, Jizan, and Najran provinces in southern Saudi Arabia. The attack also allegedly targeted Jeddah’s airport, which was incorrectly named in the statement, and Aramco facilities.[ii] Saudi Aramco did not immediately comment on the attacks. The Saudi-led coalition attacked thirteen weapons depots, air defense systems, and drone communication system sites in Sana’a, Sa’ada, and Ma’rib governorates on November 20.

The al Houthi movement launched one drone targeting Najran airport in southern Saudi Arabia on November 22.[iii] Saudi air defenses intercepted the drone. The Saudi-led coalition said the al Houthis launched the drone from Sana’a International Airport.

Saudi Arabia reinforced its border with Yemen in response to the deteriorating situation in Ma’rib city, according to a Western security official on November 20.[iv] Saudi Arabia recently withdrew some of its forces from Yemen.[v]

The Saudi-led coalition warned of threats to shipping from al Houthi explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea on November 22.[vi]

Somalia Security Brief

Al Shabaab assassinated Radio Mogadishu Director Abdiaziz Mohamed Guled in a suicide vest attack in Boondheere district, Mogadishu on November 20.[vii] Guled had openly criticized al Shabaab. Al Shabaab said they killed Guled in retaliation for the 2016 execution of Hassan Hanafi, a former journalist-turned al Shabaab member. Al Shabaab assassinated another journalist critical of the group, Jamal Farah Adan, on March 1, 2021, in Galmudug, central Somalia.[viii] 

Starvation and lack of water have caused at least three deaths in Luuq district, Gedo region, southwestern Somalia.[ix] Luuq district commissioner Ali Kadiye Ahmed said the fatalities occurred in several rural villages and included children. An unconfirmed number of deaths were suicides following livestock loss due to the drought.[x] UN report said about 2.3 million people are already suffering from life-threatening water, food, and pasture shortages in Somalia. The rapidly worsening drought could lead to an “extreme situation” by April 2022.[xi]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device in a busy market in Bardale, Bay region, southwestern Somalia, on November 19.[xii] The blast killed at least seven civilians and injured at least 12 more.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble removed acting Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Abdirizak and appointed Abdisaid Muse Ali on November 20.[xiii] Ali has previously been the Chief of Staff for the Somali Federal Government. Former Foreign Minister Abdirizak said he was surprised to be replaced but had previously offered his resignation.[xiv]

[i] Yahya Sare’e, Twitter, November 20, 2021,

[ii] Al Jazeera, “It included an airport, a military base and oil refineries..the Houthis bombed Saudi facilities with drones, and the coalition responded with a qualitative operation,” November 21, 2021,; and Reuters, “Yemen’s Houthis say they attacked Saudi cities, Aramco facilities,” November 20, 2021,

[iii] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Saudi defenses destroy Houthi armed drone targeting Najran airport,” November 22, 2021,

[iv] Dion Nissenbaum and Stephen Kalin, “Yemen’s battleground shifts in favor of Iran-backed Houthis,” Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2021,

[v] Liam Karr and Brian Carter, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 17, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 17, 2021,

[vi] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Arab Coalition warns of danger to global trade south of Red Sea,” November 22, 2021,

[vii] Radio Dalsan, “State-controlled Radio Mogadishu Director Killed in Suicide Bombing,” November 21, 2021,

[viii] Aggrey Mutumbo, “Al Shabaab kill Somali journalist Abdiaziz Guled who criticised them on radio,” The East African, November 21, 2021,

[ix] Halbeeg, “Deaths reported in Gedo as drought worsens across the country,” November 21, 2021,

[x] Goobjoog, “Three die of hunger, some commit suicide as drought ravages various parts of Somalia,” November 21, 2021,

[xi] United Nations, “Worsening drought affects 2.3 million people in Somalia,” November 19, 2021,

[xii] Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Seven Killed in Market Blast in Southwest Somalia,” Voice of America, November 19, 2021,

[xiii] Halbeeg, “PM axes his FM, appoints new one,” November 20, 2021,

[xiv] Mohamed Adan, “Sacked Somali FM says not dismissed,” Somali Dispatch, November 21, 2021,

View Citations

Yemen: An al Houthi drone and missile target southern Saudi Arabia; Saudi-led coalition destroys al Houthi mines near the Bab al Mandeb; Biden nominates new ambassador to Yemen; Saudi airstrikes target IRGC and LH facilities in Sana’a; US Treasury sanctions al Houthi leader

Somalia: UK joins the SFG in opposing a joint AU-UN security force in Somalia; Kenyan forces recapture escaped al Shabaab prisoners; al Shabaab leaders meet with regional elders in southwest Somalia; Galmudug State begins lower house election process

Yemen Security Brief

The al Houthi movement launched one explosive-laden drone and one ballistic missile targeting Saudi Arabia. Saudi air defenses intercepted both attacks. The al Houthi movement launched a drone targeting Abha International Airport, in southern Saudi Arabia on November 17.[i] The al Houthi movement also fired a missile targeting Jizan city, in southern Saudi Arabia, on November 19.[ii]

The Saudi-led coalition announced the destruction of fourteen mines near the Bab al Mandeb between November 12 and November 19.[iii]

US President Joe Biden nominated former Deputy Chief of Mission-Baghdad Steven Fagin as the new US Ambassador to Yemen on November 17.[iv]

The Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes targeting al Daylami base in Sana’a governorate on November 18.[v] The coalition said the airstrikes targeted “secret facilities” used by Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The US Treasury Department sanctioned the al Houthi deputy defense minister for logistics on November 18.[vi] The United Nations (UN) Security Council sanctioned the deputy defense minister for logistics on November 9.[vii]

Somalia Security Brief

The UK echoed the Somali Federal Government's rejection of the African Union (AU) proposal to reconfigure the African Union Mission in Somalia as a joint AU-UN force.[viii] The UK Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward said the AU plan hinders the transfer of security responsibility to Somalis. Woodward said the UK wants to support a transition to Somali-led security by making international support more viable and sustainable.

Security forces captured escaped al Shabaab militants in Kitui County, south-central Kenya on, November 18.[ix] Police rearrested the escapees near Endau, 190 km east of Nairobi. They were likely heading towards the Somali border. Mohammed Ali Abikar, a gunman for the 2015 Garissa University attacks, and three other al Shabaab members escaped from Kamiti Maximum Security prison on November 15.[x]

Al Shabaab’s governing apparatus met with local clan and religious elders from the Gedo region, southwest Somalia.[xi] Shabaab wilaayada (Islamic governance) members and the elders participated in a week-long religious event and several meetings. Al Shabaab leaders emphasized that Gedo elders must distance themselves from counterterrorism forces. Somali security forces escalated operations in the Gedo region in early November for election security.

Galmudug State Indirect Elections Team (SIET) released the lower house candidate list for the Galmudug region.[xii] SIET scheduled elections for November 27 in the state capital Dhusamareb. The commission is currently registering participants while Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble meets with the Galmudug officials to ensure the elections happen.

[i] Saudi Press Agency – Regions, Twitter, November 17, 2021,

[ii] Asharq al Awsat, “The coalition: destruction of ballstic missile launched targeting civilians in the city of Jizan,” November 18, 2021,

[iii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “The coalition announces hostile behavior and a dangerous Houthi escalation,” November 19, 2021,; and Khabar Agency, “It posed a threat to commercial ships and oil tanks.. the coalition announces the destruction of 220 sea mines,” November 19, 2021,

[iv] The White House, “President Biden announces additional nominees,” November 17, 2021,

[v] Mareb Press, “Violent explosions rock al Daylami base in Sana’a, and sources reveal the details,” November 18, 2021,

[vi] US Department of the Treasury, “Treasury sanctions senior Houthi military officer overseeing group’s seizure of opposition property,” November 18, 2021,

[vii] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 10, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute,

[viii] Dame Barbara Woodward, “Elections and the future of international security support to Somalia,” UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, November 18, 2021,

[ix] Kitavi Mutua, “How convicted militants were rearrested in Kenya,” The East African, November 18, 2021,

[x] Liam Karr and Brian Carter, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 17, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 17, 2021,

[xi] Radio al-Furqan, “An important meeting between the intellectuals of the province and the Islamic administration,” November 18, 2021,

[xii] Somali National News Agency, “Galmudug State Electoral Team releases list of first seats of the election of House of the People,” November 18, 2021,

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