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}}

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Yemen: Al Houthi movement claims capability to strike Israel; Hadi government and STC fail to meet  deadline for power-sharing agreement; Islamic State claims to kill security official in Aden; Sudanese Prime Minister confirms drawdown of troops in Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab ambushes bus in northeastern Kenya; al Shabaab captures village near Kenyan border; al Shabaab ambushes SNA troops in Lower Shabelle region; clan violence erupts in Mudug region

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi defense minister Mohammed al Atafi claimed on December 8 that the al Houthi movement has identified Israeli military targets and possesses the capabilities to strike them. Al Atafi also accused Israel of participating in the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign against the al Houthi movement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently stated on October 28 that Iran plans to use multiple Middle Eastern countries, including Yemen, as a base for launching attacks against Israel.[1]

The Hadi government and the Transitional Political Council for the South (STC), a southern Yemeni separatist group, failed to meet a 30-day deadline to implement parts of a recent power-sharing agreement. The Riyadh Agreement, which both parties signed on November 5, stipulated the creation of a new cabinet within 30 days. Each side blames the other for failing to meet the deadline.[2]

Islamic State militants claimed to kill a commander in the UAE-backed al Hizam Security Forces, Captain Mohammed Saleh al Radfani, on December 7 in the al Mansoura neighborhood of Yemen’s de facto capital, Aden. There were at least two other assassination attempts against security officials in Aden by unidentified gunmen on December 6 and 7.[3]

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stated on December 8 that Sudan has drawn down its troop numbers in Yemen from 15,000 to 5,000. This was the first time that Hamdok gave details about the number of Sudanese troops in Yemen. Hamdok stated that Sudan is drawing down its forces because it believes that the Yemen conflict must be solved politically.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants ambushed a bus carrying civilians and police officers near Kotulo town in Wajir County in northeastern Kenya on December 6. Militants flagged down the bus and executed non-Somalis, including eight Kenyan police officers, two teachers, and a doctor. Security forces arrested the bus driver and a passenger after the incident. Kenyan special forces also deployed to the area in response.[5]

Al Shabaab militants captured Dag-Allamo village near the Kenyan border in Lower Jubba region in southwestern Somalia on December 8. Hundreds of militants reportedly entered the town following the withdrawal of Jubbaland Security Forces. Al Shabaab separately claimed to briefly seize Diiso town in Mandera County in eastern Kenya on December 4.[6]

Al Shabaab militants ambushed Somali National Army (SNA) troops as the troops built flood barriers near Awdheegle town in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia on December 8. SNA troops repelled the attack.[7]

Clan violence flared up in Towfiiq village in Mudug region in north-central Somalia on December 9. Rival militias from Puntland and Galmudug states used heavy weapons in the clashes, which occurred in eastern Mudug. Clan militias previously clashed in the same area on December 5.[8]

Visit our YemenKenyaSudan, and Somalia storystreams.


[1] “Yemen Houthis Claim to Have List of Viable Israeli Targets,” Bloomberg, December 8, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-08/yemen-houthis-claim-to-have-list-of-viable-israeli-targets; “Netanyahu says Iran seeking means to attack Israel from Yemen,” Reuters, October 28, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-iran-yemen/netanyahu-says-iran-seeking-means-to-attack-israel-from-yemen-idUSKBN1X71SA.

[2] “Peace deal for Yemen’s south stumbles as deadline expires,” AFP, December 9, 2019, https://www.france24.com/en/20191209-peace-deal-for-yemen-s-south-stumbles-as-deadline-expires.

[3] “ISIS claims killing of security commander in Yemen,” The National, December 8, 2019, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/isis-claims-killing-of-security-commander-in-yemen-1.948484.

[4] “Sudan says it has reduced troops in Yemen to 5,000,” Reuters, December 8, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-politics/sudan-has-5000-troops-in-yemen-down-from-15000-idUSKBN1YC0H4.

[5] “Driver, passenger arrested over Wajir's Al-Shabaab attack; Special Forces from KDF have been deployed to the region to pursue Al-Shabaab,” Garowe, December 9, 2019, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/world/africa/driver-passenger-arrested-over-wajirs-al-shabaab-attack; and “Shabaab Claims Killing 10 Kenyan Christians in Ambush, Declares Taking Short-Term Control Over Town in Garissa,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 6, 2019, English translation available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[6] “Al-Shabaab retakes area from Jubaland state forces,” Radio Shabelle, December 8, 2019, https://www.radioshabelle.com/al-shabaab-retakes-area-from-jubaland-state-forces/; and “Shabaab Claims Killing 10 Kenyan Christians in Ambush, Declares Taking Short-Term Control Over Town in Garissa,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 6, 2019, English translation available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[7] “Somali military repels Al-Shabaab attack in Lower Shabelle region,” Radio Shabelle, December 8, 2019, https://www.radioshabelle.com/somali-military-repels-al-shabaab-attack-in-lower-shabelle-region/.

[8] “Clashes between clan militias strife in Mudug,” Goobjoog, December 9, 2019, http://goobjoog.com/english/clashes-between-clan-militias-strife/; Phelan, Kevin, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – December 6, 2019,” Critical Threats Project, December 6, 2019, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-december-6-2019.

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Yemen: State Department offers reward for information on Yemen-based IRGC member; Hadi government accuses STC-aligned forces of ambushing unit near Aden; Hadi government-aligned forces claim to kill al Houthi commander

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks regional security forces in Hiraan region; clan violence erupts in Mudug region; Ethiopian and US defense officials meet in Washington

Yemen Security Brief

The US Department of State announced on December 5 that it is offering a $15 million reward for information on a high-ranking, Yemen-based Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) member, Abdul Reza Shahlai. Shahlai is believed to facilitate the delivery of advanced weaponry to the al Houthi movement on behalf of Iran. Shahlai is also accused of previously directing attacks against US troops in Iraq.[1]

Members of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government claimed that forces aligned with the Transitional Political Council for the South (STC), a southern Yemeni separatist group, opened fire on the First Brigade Presidential Protection Unit as it traveled towards Yemen’s de facto capital, Aden, on December 5. The Presidential Protection Unit is deploying to Aden as part of a recent power-sharing agreement between the Hadi government and STC.[2]

Hadi government-aligned forces claimed to kill al Houthi commander Mortada al Sharif on December 5. The Hadi government did not disclose the location of al Sharif’s death nor his position in the al Houthi movement.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants attacked regional security forces in El Adde town near the Ethiopian border in Hiraan region in southern Somalia on December 6. Al Shabaab militants separately stopped a civilian bus north of Bal’ad town in Middle Shabelle region in central Somalia on December 6. Militants removed one person from the bus.[4]

Clan violence erupted in Afbarwaaqo village in Mudug region in north-central Somalia on December 5. Two clan militias clashed over land disputes and revenge killings, causing at least 15 deaths.[5]

Ethiopian and US defense officials met for the ninth annual US-Ethiopia Bilateral Defense Committee meeting in Washington, DC on December 4. The officials discussed regional security, peacekeeping, intelligence, and military relations and highlighted the increase in bilateral security cooperation over the past 18 months.[6]

Visit our Yemen and Somalia storystreams.


[1] “US targets Iranian prisons with sanctions in response to deadly crackdown,” The Hill, December 5, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/473224-us-targets-iranian-prisons-with-sanctions-in-response-to-deadly.

[2] “Fierce confrontations between the presidential protection and the transitional militias in Abyan and the death of a separatist leader,” Mareb Press, December 6, 2019, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=158440; “Government spokesman holds the transitional council responsible for escalation and attempt to obstruct the Riyadh Agreement,” 7adramout, December 6, 2019, https://www.7adramout.net/alwahdawi/7241524/%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%AC%D9%84--%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%8A%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A4%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D9%82%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B6.html.

[3] “Yemeni army kills Houthi militia commander Mortada al-Sharif: Sources,” Al Arabiya, December 5, 2019, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/12/05/Yemeni-army-kills-Houthi-militia-leader-Mortada-al-Sharif-Sources.html.

[4] Maruf, Harun, Twitter, December 6, 2019, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1202878220791623680; and Maruf, Harun, Twitter, December 6, 2019, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1202694388524208131.

[5] “At least 15 people killed in inter-clan fighting in central Somalia,” Radio Shabelle, December 5, 2019, https://www.radioshabelle.com/at-least-15-people-killed-in-inter-clan-fighting-in-central-somalia/.

[6] “News: U.S., Ethiopian Defense Officials Meet at Pentagon,” Addis Standard, December 6, 2019, https://addisstandard.com/news-u-s-ethiopian-defense-officials-meet-at-pentagon/.

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Yemen: Hadi government-aligned forces and STC-aligned forces clash in Abyan; STC-aligned forces capture AQAP militants in Abyan; al Houthi movement claims to down two Saudi drones

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates IED killing district commissioner in Lower Shabelle region; UN renews anti-piracy measures in Somalia; SNA soldier kills colleague in Galgudud region

Yemen Security Brief

Security forces aligned with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government clashed with southern separatist forces in Abyan governorate in southern Yemen on December 5. The clashes began when forces aligned with the Transitional Political Council for the South (STC) attempted to prevent Hadi government-aligned forces from entering Zinjibar, Abyan’s capital. The clashes killed a commander in an STC-aligned security force. This is the first reported clash of STC and Hadi government-aligned forces since the two sides signed a power-sharing agreement in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in early November.[1]

STC-aligned forces captured five al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Jaar town in Abyan on December 5. The militants were driving a car filled with weapons and ammunition at the time of their arrest.[2]

The al Houthi movement claimed to shoot down two Saudi spy drones near the Saudi border in northern Yemen on December 4. Saudi Arabia has not commented on the claims. The al Houthis previously claimed to shoot down a Saudi helicopter and a drone near the border in separate instances in late November.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab detonated a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a regional government official near Awdheegle town in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia on December 4. The IED killed Awdheegle’s district commissioner and injured three of his bodyguards.[4]

The UN renewed authorization for anti-piracy measures in Somalia on December 4. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) requested the renewal of the measures on November 22. The measures, which are renewed until December 2020, allow the SFG’s regional and international partners to enter Somali territorial waters to pursue and disrupt pirates.[5]

A Somali National Army (SNA) soldier killed one of his colleagues over a dispute in Dhusamareb town in Galgudud region in north-central Somalia on December 4. Security forces apprehended the assailant.[6]

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[1] “Clashes erupt in southern Yemen after deal with separatists,” AP, December 5, 2019, https://apnews.com/7fcac68dc16a412db517ec8a99a41b38.

[2] “5 al-Qaida members captured in S. Yemen,” Xinhua, December 5, 2019, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/05/c_138608326.htm.

[3] “Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim downing of 2 spy drones near the Saudi border,” Xinhua, December 5, 2019, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/05/c_138605946.htm; Herrera, Hennessey, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – December 2, 2019,” Critical Threats, December 2, 2019, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-december-2-2019.

[4] Mbataru, Samuel, “Police Bravely Thwart Al Shabaab Ambush,” Kenyans, December 4, 2019, https://www.kenyans.co.ke/news/47321-polices-quick-move-thwarts-unprecedented-al-shabab-move.

[5] “Renewing Authorization for International Naval Forces Fighting Piracy off Coast of Somalia, Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2500,” United Nations, December 4, 2019, https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/sc14039.doc.htm.

[6] “Soldier kills colleague in Dhusamaareb,” Goobjoog, December 4, 2019, http://goobjoog.com/english/a-soldier-killed-in-galmudug/.

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