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}}



Yemen: Russia withdraws diplomatic personnel from Yemen; counterterrorism unit raids Salafi-jihadi safe house and bomb factory in Aden; gunmen assassinate Salafi imam in Aden

Horn of Africa: Reported U.S. drone strike targets VBIED in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; al Shabaab militants kill Puntland explosives expert in Bari region, northern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Russia suspended its diplomatic presence in Yemen and withdrew its staff due to instability in Sana’a on December 12, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian Ambassador to Yemen and diplomatic staff will temporarily work from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Moscow has repeatedly expressed interest in mediating political negotiations to resolve the Yemeni conflict.[1] 

An Aden Police counterterrorism unit raided a Salafi-jihadi safe house and bomb factory in Cairo neighborhood, al Mansoura district, Aden city on December 12. Emirati Apache helicopters provided cover for the unit. Counterterrorism forces arrested thirteen Salafi-jihadi militants and killed three others during clashes. One militant detonated a suicide vest, killing only himself. Counterterrorism forces discovered explosive devices, medium weapons, and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) workshop. Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan militants detonated two suicide VBIEDs in Aden in November 2017.[2]

Gunmen assassinated Salafi imam Sheikh Fayez Fuad in al Mansoura district, Aden city on December 12. Six other Salafi imams have been assassinated since October 10 in Aden. No militant group has claimed responsibility for any of the assassinations.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

A reported U.S. drone strike targeted a suspected al Shabaab vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Mubarak, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on December 12, according to a Somali intelligence official. The minibus filled with explosives left an al Shabaab stronghold near Mubarak and traveled toward Mogadishu. Mubarak is located between Qoryoley and Afgoi, along the Barawe-Afgoi highway.[4] 

Al Shabaab militants detonated a roadside IED that killed the head of the Puntland explosive device disposal team on December 12. Al Shabaab stated that the victim was attempting to defuse an IED at the time of the attack, which occurred on the Boosaaso-Galgala highway in Bari region, northern Somalia. Al Shabaab has attacked Puntland forces near Boosaaso four times since November 30.[5]  

[1] “Russia suspends diplomatic presence in Yemen, moves envoy to Riyadh: agencies,” Reuters, December 12, 2017,
[2] “Three terrorists were killed and three soldiers were wounded during a raid on an apartment in Cairo district,” Tahdeeth, December 12, 2017,; “Security source for Aden Lang: Counterterrorism forces are able to arrest 13 in wanted in Mansoura,” Aden Lang, December 12, 2017,; “Details of the raid for those wanted in al Mansura,” Aden Tomorrow, December 12, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, December 12, 2017,
[3] “The second assassination since a week ago, gunmen assassinate the imam of a mosque in Aden city,” Al Masdar, December 12, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, December 12, 2017,
[4] Abdi Guled, “Somalia intelligence officials report suspected US airstrike,” Washington Post, December 12, 2017,
[5] “Bomb kills bomb disposal expert in Somalia's Puntland, al Shabaab suspected,” Reuters, December 12, 2017,

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Yemen: Hadi government-aligned forces advance further into al Houthi-held al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen; UN Secretary General reports al Houthi missiles have common origin; White House condemns al Houthi movement missile attacks on UAE; Emirati-backed southern political council Vice President recognizes President Hadi’s legitimacy

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab calls for jihad in response to U.S. position on Jerusalem; U.S. Department of Defense submits two-year plan for Somalia campaign; Kenyan opposition party postpones protest inauguration; African Union warns of returning ISIS fighters

Yemen Security Brief

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi government continued an offensive into al Houthi-held al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen. Emirati Brigadier General Abdul Salam al Shehi confirmed on December 11 that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Republican Guard troops are participating in the offensive to seize al Hudaydah. Hadi government-aligned forces, backed by coalition warplanes and Emirati ground forces, seized Hays city and reached the outskirts of Zabid city on December 10. Al Houthi movement forces fired three Katyusha rockets at al Khawkhah town on December 10. Hadi government-aligned forces seized al Khawkhah on December 7 after launching the offensive on December 6.[1] 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reported on December 9 that the al Houthi missiles fired into Saudi Arabia on July 22 and November 4 had similar structural and manufacturing features, which suggests a common origin. UN officials are still investigating claims that Iran supplied the missiles, however. UN officials studied three components of the November 4 missile supplied by Saudi Arabia, and found castings of a logo similar to that of UN-blacklisted Iranian company Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group.[2]

The White House condemned the al Houthi movement’s killing of Saleh, emphasizing Iran’s support for the the al Houthi movement on December 8. The statement also condemned al Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The al Houthi movement claimed to launch a cruise missile at the UAE on December 3, which Emirati officials still deny. The White House also called for political negotiations in adherence to the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and called on the Saudi-led coalition to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid. President Donald Trump called on Saudi Arabia to allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people immediately on December 6.[3]

Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) Vice President Hani Bin Brik recognized the the legitimacy of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi on December 10. The STC is an Emirati-backed governing body that rivals the internationally recognized Yemeni government in southern Yemen. STC officials have previously announced the council's intent to hold an independence referendum.[4]

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes allegedly killed Iranian missile expert Hussein Khosrawi in Arhab district, Sana’a governorate, northern Yemen on December 9, according to local news sources. This report is unconfirmed.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab called on Muslims to wage jihad against the West in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 9. Al Shabaab urged Muslims to fight or provide financial support.  Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohammed Rage also called on Muslims to fight the West on December 6.[6]

The U.S. Department of Defense submitted a two-year plan for its operations in Somalia on December 10. The plan will lift restrictions on personnel decisions and broaden drone strike authorizations loosened by President Trump in March 2017. The revised authorities are unlikely to produce significant changes in U.S. military activity in Somalia, however. The U.S. military conducted over 30 airstrikes and increased its personnel in Somalia from 50 to 500 in 2017.[7] 

The Kenyan opposition party postponed the planned inauguration its leader, Raila Odinga, as president on December 10. The National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition party stated that it postponed the ceremony because of ongoing discussions with national and international leaders, who have urged NASA to forego the inauguration. The Kenyan attorney general threatened to charge Odinga with treason on December 8 in the event of an inauguration. NASA boycotted the October 26 re-run election, which Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won with 98% of the vote. Kenyatta was inaugurated for his second term on November 26.[8]

African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui warned on December 11 that approximately 6,000 Africans who fought for ISIS could return home in the next year. Chergui urged African states to share intelligence and collaborate to capture ISIS militants returning to Africa. African Union members have expressed specific concern for militants joining Salafi-jihadi groups in Libya and Somalia in recent months.[9]

[1] “The army and the southern resistance forces reach the outskirts of Zabid city in Hudaydah,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017,; “The fall of the city of Hays in the hands of the army and resistance forces,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017,; “Two children and one woman killed and others injured by al Houthi rocket fire in al Khawkhah town,” Al Masdar, December 10, 2017,; “Al Hizam Security Forces will participate in west coast battles,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017,; “Alliance confirms for the first time its cooperation with the Republican Guard loyal to Saleh,” Aden Tomorrow, December 11, 2017,; and “Air cover by the Arab Alliance, army and resistance arrive in Hays city, al Hudaydah governorate,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017,
[2] “U.N. says missiles fired at Saudi Arabia have ‘common origin’” Reuters, December 9, 2017,
[3] “Statement by the Press Secretary Regarding the Violence and Humanitarian Conditions in Yemen,” The White House, December 8, 2017,
[4] Hani Bin Brik, Twitter, December 10, 2017,
[5] “The first Iranian missile expert was killed in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017,
[6] “Shabaab promotes Jihad in response to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital,” SITE, December 9, 2017, available by subscription at
[7] Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, “Pentagon Foresees at Least Two More Years of Combat in Somalia,” New York Times, December 10, 2017,  
[8] “Kenya's opposition says postpones 'swearing-in' of alternative president,” Reuters, December 10, 2017,
[9] “6,000 IS jihadists could return to Africa, AU warns,” Goobjoog, December 11, 2017,

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Yemen: Hadi government forces seize road linking Sa’ada and al Jawf governorates, northern Yemen; al Houthi movement leader condemns U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; Saudi-backed forces arrive in al Mahrah, eastern Yemen; AQAP militants shell Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Western diplomats meet with Kenyan opposition; Kenyan police kill suspected al Shabaab recruiter in Mombasa county, southeastern Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi government, backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, seized the al Buqa’-Yatamah road connecting Kitaf district, Sa’ada governorate and Khab wa ash Sha’af district, al Jawf governorate in northern Yemen from al Houthi forces on December 7. Hadi government forces reportedly cleared six al Houthi camps in the area. Hadi government forces have been stalled in al Jawf for the past year.[1] 

Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi condemned the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and stated that the U.S. made this decision in coordination with some Arab countries on December 7. Demonstrators protested the U.S. decision on December 8 in Sana’a and Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen. Al Houthi movement political leader Mohammed Ali al Houthi announced that Yemenis are ready to defend Islamic holy sites and rejected normalization of relations with Israel on December 7.[2]

Saudi-backed forces delivered military vehicles and equipment to al Ghaydah city, al Mahrah governorate, eastern Yemen on December 7. The Saudi-led coalition began efforts to counter smuggling through eastern Yemen in mid-November.[3]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants fired a 82mm mortar at Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces in Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on December 7. AQAP frames its attacks against Emirati-backed forces as in reprisal for transgressions against the local population.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and other Western ambassadors met with Kenyan opposition party leaders on December 8 to discuss the party’s planned inauguration of leader Raila Odinga on December 12. Godec urged the opposition party to seek other methods to protest the majority government within the framework of the Kenya constitution on December 7. Opposition party leaders stated that the inauguration will occur as scheduled and called on foreign envoys to not recognize incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta won a re-run presidential election and was inaugurated for his second term on November 28.[5]

Kenyan police killed a suspected al Shabaab recruiter in Likoni, Mombasa county, southeastern Kenya on December 8. The suspect attacked police with a sword and attempted to steal an officer’s firearm before police shot him. Al Shabaab uses a stronghold in the Boni Forest area, southeastern Kenya to conduct attacks along the Somali-Kenyan border.[6] 


[1] “Yemeni National Army provides a road (Yatamah-Buqa’) supported by coalition aircraft,” Saudi News Agency, December 7, 2017,; “Legitimacy secures the al Buqa’-Yatamah road,” Asharq Al Awsat, December 8, 2017,; and “The National Army controls the positions in al Jawf and captures ten militia,” Saba New, December 7, 2017,
[2] “Mr. Abdul Malik calls for mass demonstrations on Friday in Sanaa and all provinces to support Jerusalem,” Al Masirah, December 7, 2017,; “The Supreme Revolutionary President: The declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of the enemy entity is an aggressive American step, with the collusion of Arab regimes,” Al Masirah, December 7, 2017,; and “Masses participate in the march to support the Palestinian people and holy places and condemning the hostile American position,” Al Masirah, December 8, 2017,
[3] “The arrival of military reinforcements of the Arab Alliance to al Mahrah,” Aden Tomorrow, December 8, 2017,
[4] AQAP fires 82mm mortar at al Hizam, Telegram, December 7, 2017; and Demolinari, Twitter, December 7, 2017,
[5] Nancy Agutu, “After rebuking US, Raila meets envoys on NASA's position,” The Star, December 8, 2017,
[6] “Suspected Al Shabaab recruiter gunned down in Likoni,” The Standard, December 8, 2017,

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