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: 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, http://adengad.net/news/291831/; “The fall of the city of Hays in the hands of the army and resistance forces,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291740/; “Two children and one woman killed and others injured by al Houthi rocket fire in al Khawkhah town,” Al Masdar, December 10, 2017, http://almasdaronline.com/article/95990; “Al Hizam Security Forces will participate in west coast battles,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291817/; “Alliance confirms for the first time its cooperation with the Republican Guard loyal to Saleh,” Aden Tomorrow, December 11, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291979/; and “Air cover by the Arab Alliance, army and resistance arrive in Hays city, al Hudaydah governorate,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291794/.
[2] “U.N. says missiles fired at Saudi Arabia have ‘common origin’” Reuters, December 9, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-un/u-n-says-missiles-fired-at-saudi-arabia-have-common-origin-idUSKBN1E30QU.
[3] “Statement by the Press Secretary Regarding the Violence and Humanitarian Conditions in Yemen,” The White House, December 8, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/12/08/statement-press-secretary-regarding-violence-and-humanitarian-conditions.
[4] Hani Bin Brik, Twitter, December 10, 2017, https://twitter.com/HaniBinbrek/status/939929013098860546.
[5] “The first Iranian missile expert was killed in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, December 10, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291840/.
[6] “Shabaab promotes Jihad in response to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital,” SITE, December 9, 2017, available by subscription at ent.siteintelgroup.com.
[7] Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, “Pentagon Foresees at Least Two More Years of Combat in Somalia,” New York Times, December 10, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/10/world/africa/pentagon-somalia-combat-islamic-militants.html?_r=0.  
[8] “Kenya's opposition says postpones 'swearing-in' of alternative president,” Reuters, December 10, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-politics/kenyas-opposition-says-postpones-swearing-in-of-alternative-president-idUSKBN1E40RL.
[9] “6,000 IS jihadists could return to Africa, AU warns,” Goobjoog, December 11, 2017, http://goobjoog.com/english/6000-is-jihadists-could-return-to-africa-au-warns/.

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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, http://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=ar&newsid=1696030#1696030; “Legitimacy secures the al Buqa’-Yatamah road,” Asharq Al Awsat, December 8, 2017, https://aawsat.com/home/article/1106726/%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%A4%D9%85%D9%91%D9%86-%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%82-%C2%AB%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%80-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%B9%C2%BB; and “The National Army controls the positions in al Jawf and captures ten militia,” Saba New, December 7, 2017, http://sabanew.net/viewstory.php?id=25971.
[2] “Mr. Abdul Malik calls for mass demonstrations on Friday in Sanaa and all provinces to support Jerusalem,” Al Masirah, December 7, 2017, http://almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=16574&cat_id=3; “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, https://www.almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=16556&cat_id=3; 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, https://www.almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=16592&cat_id=3.
[3] “The arrival of military reinforcements of the Arab Alliance to al Mahrah,” Aden Tomorrow, December 8, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291514/.
[4] AQAP fires 82mm mortar at al Hizam, Telegram, December 7, 2017; and Demolinari, Twitter, December 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/938973030201438209.
[5] Nancy Agutu, “After rebuking US, Raila meets envoys on NASA's position,” The Star, December 8, 2017, https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/12/08/after-rebuking-us-raila-meets-envoys-on-nasas-position_c1682130.
[6] “Suspected Al Shabaab recruiter gunned down in Likoni,” The Standard, December 8, 2017, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001262498/suspected-extremist-groups-recruiter-gunned-down-in-likoni.
 

 
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Yemen: AQAP condemns U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; Hadi government forces enter southernmost district of al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen; President Trump calls on Saudi Arabia to ease blockade; al Houthi movement consolidates control in Sana’a; Emirati-backed forces arrest AQAP officer in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab spokesman urges Muslims to retaliate against U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital; Uganda begins AMISOM troop withdrawal; reported U.S. airstrike targets al Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; six al Shabaab militants surrender to Somali forces in Bay region, southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) condemned U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called on all Muslims to support the mujahideen with money and weapons to defend holy territory in a December 6 statement. AQAP accused the U.S. of being subservient to Zionism and pointed to the decision as evidence of the Gulf States normalizing relations with Israel.[1]

Hadi government-aligned forces, reportedly backed by pro-Saleh and Saudi-led coalition ground forces, advanced farther into al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on December 7 than at any other point in the conflict. Hadi government-aligned forces seized Abu Musa and al Ashari military camps, northeast of al Khawkhah town, southern al Hudaydah governorate on December 7 after launching an offensive on December 6. Hadi government forces had been stalled in Yakhtul, western Taiz governorate for several months.[2] 

U.S. President Donald Trump called on Saudi Arabia to allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people immediately on December 6. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters that former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s death will likely worsen the already dire humanitarian situation in the short term on December 5. The Saudi-led coalition prevented oil tankers from entering al Hudaydah port, northern Yemen for a month despite them being approved by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen. Commercial ships carrying food and fuel reportedly arrived for the first time at al Hudaydah port on December 6.[3]

The al Houthi movement is consolidating control in Sana’a city, northern Yemen. Al Houthi forces reportedly placed thirteen members of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party under house arrest on December 7, including Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf. The al Houthi movement also reportedly blocked major social networking sites and instant messaging apps in Sana’a on December 7. Al Houthi forces seized gold, weapons, and cash from Saleh’s home to deposit in the al Houthi-controlled Central Bank and to distribute to al Houthi forces.[4]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces arrested AQAP officer Abu Salem al Walidi in Kawkab area, east of Mudiyah city, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on December 6. Al Hizam forces transferred al Walidi who is reportedly AQAP’s Abyan financial officer to Jaar city, Khanfir district to hand him over to Saudi-led coalition forces.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohammed Rage called on Muslims to fight in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Rage framed the decision as an “escalation” in the Trump administration’s “aggression against Islam.”[6]

Kenyan attorney general Githu Muigai threatened on December 7 to charge opposition leader Raila Odinga with treason if the opposition party swears him in as president. The opposition party plans to inaugurate Odinga as president on Kenya’s Independence Day, December 12. Several counties passed motions supporting Odinga.[7]

Uganda began to withdraw its forces from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on December 7. Uganda will remove 281 of its 6,000 troops from Somalia by December 31, 2017. The UN Security Council voted in August 2017 to withdraw 1,000 AMISOM forces from Somalia before 2018 and all 22,000 forces by the end of 2020.[8] 

A reported U.S. airstrike targeted al Shabaab militants transporting bomb-making supplies near Ilimey village, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on November 6. Al Shabaab’s regional governor claimed that the strike killed several civilians. The U.S. has conducted 14 airstrikes in Somalia since November 1 to defend Somali National Army (SNA) positions and clear al Shabaab hideouts. Ilimey is located six miles from Farsoley, a major al Shabaab stronghold.[9] 

Six al Shabaab militants surrendered to SNA forces in Dinsoor, Bay region, southern Somalia on December 7. The militants possessed an improvised attack vehicle and a weapons cache. SNA forces began counter-al Shabaab operations in the Bay region on December 6 as part of a renewed offensive.[10]


[1] AQAP responds to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, Telegram, December 6, 2017; “AQAP calls Muslims to support Palestinian fighters in face of U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” SITE, November 13, 2017, available by subscription at ent.siteintelgroup.com; and Demolinari, Twitter, December 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/938666186765623302.
[2] “Saudi-backed fighters capture coastal area in Yemen from Houthis,” Reuters, December 7, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security/saudi-backed-fighters-capture-coastal-area-in-yemen-from-houthis-idUSKBN1E11IM; “Yemeni government forces control the first area of Hudaydah,” Aden Tomorrow, December 6, 2017, http://www.adengd.net/news/291333/; “Republican Guard surprised everyone and announce joining the National Army forces in this governorate,” Barq Press, December 6, 2017, http://barqpress.com/archives/15942; Mubarak al Kathiri, Twitter, December 6, 2017, https://twitter.com/pU5KB7CmO8KhZfP/status/938464854511439872; Demolinari, Twitter, December 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/938773942629576704; and “Leader of al Khawkhah front informs President of the Republic the progress of the fighting against the militia,” President Hadi, December 7, 2017, https://presidenthadi-gov-ye.info/archives/%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AF-%D8%AC%D8%A8%D9%87%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%AE%D8%A9-%D9%8A%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%B9-%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%85%D9%87%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9/.
[3] “Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Yemen,” The White House, December 6, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/12/06/statement-president-donald-j-trump-yemen; and “UPDATE 2-"Glimmer of hope" as food and fuel arrives in Yemen ports - NRC,” Reuters, December 6, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/yemen-security-blockade/update-2-glimmer-of-hope-as-food-and-fuel-arrives-in-yemen-ports-nrc-idUSL8N1O64V4.
[4] “The al Houthi group is imposing house arrest on ministers of Saleh’s party in Sana’a,” Al Masdar, December 7, 2017, http://almasdaronline.com/article/95962; “Houthis block social networking sites and instant messaging applications,” Al Masdar, December 7, 2017, http://almasdaronline.com/article/95958; and “Regulating quantities of gold and monetary sums in the house of Afash,” Al Masirah, December 7, 2017, https://www.almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=16553&cat_id=3.
[5] “We arrested a leader of al Qaeda but not Abu Salim, the leader in Aden,” Al Mashhad Al Araby, December 7, 2017, http://www.almashhadalaraby.com/news/15321; and “We arrested a leader of al Qaeda but not Abu Salim, the leader in Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, December 6, 2017, http://adengad.net/news/291385/.
[6] “Shabaab spokesman urges Muslims respond with Weapons to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital,” SITE, December 6, 2017, available by subscription at ent.siteintelgroup.com.
[7] Wambui Mbuthia, “Kenyans react after AG Githu Muigai says swearing-in Raila is treason,” The Standard, December 7, 2017, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ureport/amp/article/2001262428/kenyans-react-after-ag-githu-mugai-says-swearing-in-raila-is-treason.
[8] “Dozens of Ugandan troops withdrawn from Somalia duty,” Washington Post, December, 7, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/dozens-of-ugandan-troops-to-be-withdrawn-from-somalia-duty/2017/12/07/d0a3ebd8-db2a-11e7-a241-0848315642d0_story.html?utm_term=.ea1e7aa9f56b.
[9] “Air strike reported near Somalia's capital, official says Shabaab targeted,” Reuters, November 7, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-security/air-strike-reported-near-somalias-capital-official-says-shabaab-targeted-idUSKBN1E0283; and “Somalia: Drone strike kills five suspected militants,” Garowe Online, December 7, 2017, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-drone-strike-kills-5-suspected-militants
[10] “Six Al-Shabaab militants in Bakool surrender as military offensives intensify,” Goobjoog, December 7, 2017, http://goobjoog.com/english/six-al-shabaab-militants-in-bakool-surrender-as-military-offensives-intensify/.

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