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: Secretary of State Pompeo discusses Yemen conflict with Omani foreign minister; UN Special Envoy to Yemen secures agreement with al Houthi movement to attend meeting in Sweden; Saudi-led coalition naval forces destroy al Houthi remote-controlled explosive boat in the Red Sea; al Houthi forces claim to attack Saudi base with UAV in Ma’rib governorate, northern Yemen; al Houthi ministers defect; al Houthi forces detain  suspected ISIS members in al Hudaydah city

Horn of Africa: ISIS criticizes al Shabaab for targeting its supporters in Somalia; likely al Shabaab IED explodes in Bakara market, Mogadishu; al Shabaab militants fight Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a in central Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo discussed the Yemen crisis with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi on November 16. Pompeo and Abdullah reiterated the urgent need for a secession of hostilities and the importance of all parties working to achieve a political agreement to end the conflict.[1]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths stated on November 16 that al Houthi movement delegation to attend a meeting in Sweden by the end of 2018 without fear of being prevented from returning to Yemen. Griffiths will address the United Nations Security Council  about the crisis in Yemen on November 16.[2]

Saudi-led coalition naval forces intercepted and destroyed an al Houthi remote-controlled explosive boat in the Red Sea on November 16. The boat was reportedly en route to Jizan region, southern Saudi Arabia.[3]

Al Houthi forces claimed to attack a Saudi-led coalition training base with a Qasef 1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Ma’rib governorate, northern Yemen on November 16.[4]

The al Houthi ministers of Technical and Vocational Training and Culture and Information announced their defections from the al Houthi movement on November 15 and 10, respectively, according to pro-Saudi news sources. The al Houthi Minister of Tourism previously left the movement on October 12, according to Saudi news.[5]

Al Houthi forces arrested alleged members of the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in al Hudaydah city. Al Houthi forces are also occupying homes in neighborhoods in southern and eastern al Hudaydah city.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

ISIS accused al Shabaab of arresting and killing ISIS supporters in Somalia and targeting the families of ISIS fighters in an online statement on November 16. ISIS claimed that al Shabaab’s campaign aims to deter Somalis from joining or supporting ISIS. ISIS implied that it would respond to al Shabaab’s purges at some point in the future.[7]

A likely al Shabaab improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in a wheelbarrow in a parking lot near a telecommunications company in Bakara market, Mogadishu on November 15. Likely al Shabaab militants killed an employee of the same telecommunications company in Suqa Hoolaha area, Mogadishu on November 15. Al Shabaab militants have been attacking local businesses in an attempt to extort them, according to Somali officials.[8]

Al Shabaab militants fought members of Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a in Goola-Goole village about 100 kilometers south of Guriel, Galgudud region, central Somalia on November 26. There were at least four casualties.[9]


[1] “Secretary Pompeo’s call with Omani Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah,” U.S. Department of State, November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/11/287403.htm.

[2] “United Nations Yemen envoy hopeful of peace talks to end deadly conflict,” Sky News, November 16, 2018, https://news.sky.com/story/united-nations-yemen-envoy-hopeful-of-peace-talks-to-end-deadly-conflict-11555403.

[3] “Saudi-led coalition naval forces intercept and destroy an al Houthi-remote explosive boat,” Al Arabiya, November 16, 2018, https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/saudi-today/2018/11/16/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%85%D8%B1-%D8%B2%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%82-%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A-%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%81%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%B1.html.

[4] “Al Houthi forces target a military training camp used by mercenaries in Ma’rib,” Al Masirah, November 16, 2018, http://almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=31608&cat_id=3.

[5] “Al Houthi ministers continue to splinter and al Hudaydah liberation nears,” Makkah Newspaper, November 15, 2018, https://makkahnewspaper.com/article/1090270; “An al Houthi minister resigns and reveals a surprise,” Almashhad Alaraby, October 12, 2018, http://www.almashhadalaraby.com/news/46198; and “Al Houthi minister of culture and information hit by a shoe in Riyadh,” Alitihad, November 10, 2018, https://www.alittihad.ae/article/73879/2018/%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D9%81%D9%8A-_%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86_-%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%B4%D9%82-%D9%88%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%B6%D9%85-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A9.

[6] Baseem al Jenani, Twitter, November 15, 2018, https://twitter.com/baseem_aljenani/status/1063185894423887873.

[7] “IS Suggests Coming Showdown Shabaab in Somalia in Nabab 156,” SITE Intelligence group, November 16, 2018, English translation available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[8] Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 15, 2018, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1063075078651473920.

[9] Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 16, 2018, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1063355575902371840; and Mogadishu Update, Twitter, November 16, 2018, https://twitter.com/Magdashi3/status/1063440465322811402.

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Yemen: Saudi soldiers clash with armed locals in al Mahrah governorate, eastern Yemen; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda releases a video of attack on AQAP in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; U.S. House of Representatives blocks bill on U.S. support for Saudi-led coalition; U.S., UK, Saudi, and Emirati officials discuss Yemen in Riyadh

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian authorities arrest former deputy of intelligence service; Somalia’s Southwest state postpones elections to November 28; newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Somalia arrives in Nairobi

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi soldiers clashed with armed locals near the Nishtun seaport in Haswayn district, al Mahrah governorate, eastern Yemen on November 14. Locals were protesting against Saudi Arabia’s decision to establish military checkpoints in the governorate. Saudi soldiers killed at least three protesters. Local tribes held a meeting to discuss ways to escalate protests after the deaths. Al Mahrah governor Rajeh Bakrit and the Saudi military claimed that the protesters were smugglers aligned with the al Houthi movement. Saudi Arabia began an anti-smuggling operation in al Mahrah in November 2017.[1]

‘Amaq News Agency released a video of an ISIS Wilayat al Bayda attack on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen, on November 14. The short clip shows a November 11 attack on AQAP in the Za’j area of Wald Rabia district in al Bayda governorate. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed to kill 10 AQAP fighters in the attack.[2]

The U.S. House of Representatives blocked a bill for an authorization vote on U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on November 14. Representative Ro Khanna introduced the War Powers Resolution, which invoked the 1973 War Powers Act to declare a special privilege which would allow the issue to come to a vote in Congress. The House Rules Committee stripped the bill of its special privilege on November 13.[3]

Senior officials from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, UK, and the UAE met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 15 to discuss the worsening economic and humanitarian situation in Yemen. Representatives from the four countries agreed to establish a Technical Advisory Committee that will meet monthly to work on economic stabilization measures for Yemen.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian authorities arrested the former deputy of the National Intelligence and Security Service, General Yared Zerihun, in Addis Ababa on November 15. Authorities have arrested over 60 intelligence and military officials for corruption and human rights abuses since November 12.[5]

Somalia’s Southwest state postponed its presidential election from November 17 to November 28 on November 15. Multiple electoral committee members resigned on November 5.[6]

U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto arrived in Nairobi to lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia on November 15. The U.S. Senate confirmed Yamamoto on October 11.[7]


[1] “Saudi soldiers fire at Yemeni protesters in al Mahrah, killing one,” Middle East Eye, November 14, 2018, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-soldiers-fire-yemeni-protesters-al-mahrah-killing-one-208823357.

[2] “AMAQ Video Shows IS Attack on AQAP Position in al-Bayda,” SITE Intelligence Group, November 14, 2018, English translation available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[3] Conor Finnegan “House blocks bill to end support for Saudi coalition in Yemen as UK yields diplomatic progress,” ABC News, November 15, 2018, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/house-blocks-bill-end-support-saudi-coalition-yemen/story?id=59208707; and Haley Britsky, “House Republicans vote to continue supporting Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” Axios, November 14, 2018, https://www.axios.com/house-republicans-vote-support-saudis-yemen-c9683e3a-ed9b-4e9c-91ca-bf26e017b5e8.html.

[4] “KSA, UAE, USA, UK identify key actions to address situation in Yemen,” Al Arabiya, November 15, 2018, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/11/15/KSA-UAE-USA-identify-key-actions-to-address-situation-in-Yemen.html; and “Saudi-Emirati-British meeting to support Yemen,” Sky News, November 15, 2018, https://www.skynewsarabia.com/middle-east/1199935-%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%95%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%94%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86

[5] “Ethiopia arrests former deputy spy chief Yared Zerihun,” BBC News, November 15, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46221238; and “Ethiopia arrests ex deputy intelligence chief in corruption, rights crackdown,” Reuters, November 15, 2018,https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-politics/ethiopia-arrests-ex-deputy-intelligence-chief-in-corruption-rights-crackdown-idUSKCN1NK079

[6] Harun Maruf, Twitter, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1063086368937730048; and “Govt calls for timely election in Southwest as electoral officials resign,” Garowe, November 6, 2018, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-govt-calls-for-timely-election-in-southwest-as-electoral-officials-resign.

[7] “Arrival of U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto,” U.S. Mission to Somalia, November 15, 2018, https://so.usmission.gov/arrival-of-u-s-ambassador-to-somalia-donald-y-yamamoto/; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review: October 12, 2018,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, October 12, 2018, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review.

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Yemen: Saudi-led coalition and al Houthi movement reach a ceasefire in al Hudaydah city; U.S. stops refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen; UAE expresses support for UN-led peace talks in Sweden; UAE crown prince and UK foreign minister meet with al Islah party leaders in Abu Dhabi; Transitional Political Council of the South President accepts invitation to Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: UN Security Council lifts sanctions on Eritrea; UN report accuses UAE of plotting to undermine SFG; UN report details foiled al Shabaab VBIED attack against Nairobi; al Shabaab militants kill Puntland soldiers in Boosaaso, Puntland; protests break out in response to al Shabaab member’s death sentence in Mudug region, northern Somalia 

Yemen Security Brief

The Saudi-led coalition and the al Houthi movement reached an informal ceasefire in al Hudaydah city, western Yemen, on November 13, according to Yemeni officials. Residents reported that fighting slowed in the city on November 13 after Emirati-backed Yemeni forces partially surrounded the city. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths welcomed the reduction in hostilities and stressed that it is a crucial step toward enabling the political process.[1]

 U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed on November 9 that the U.S. has stopped refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen. Mattis confirmed that the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition are planning to build up legitimate Yemeni forces to secure the country’s borders and contribute to counterterrorism efforts. Russian defense officials also stated that Russia will assist with the development of the Yemeni Army during a meeting with Hadi government Ambassador to Russia Ahmed al Wahishi on November 13.[2]

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated on November 14 that the UAE welcomes the announcement that the UN will lead peace talks in Sweden by the end of 2018. Gargash emphasized that the Saudi-led coalition will urge all parties to participate in the peace talks. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is expected to meet with Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi this week.[3]

Al Islah party leader Mohammed al Yedoumi and Secretary General Abed al Wahab al Anisi met with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Abu Dhabi on November 13.[4]

Transitional Political Council for the South (STC) President Aydarus al Zubaidi accepted an invitation on November 13 to meet with Saudi officials in Riyadh. The date of the meeting is unknown.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to lift sanctions on Eritrea on November 14. The Security Council’s resolution urges Eritrea and Djibouti to work toward normalizing ties and settling a border dispute. The Security Council justified the lifting of sanctions by noting that there is no evidence of current Eritrean support for al Shabaab and that Eritrea reconciled with Ethiopia in July 2018.[6]

Emirati diplomats conspired to undermine the Somali Federal Government (SFG) through various methods, including bribery, according to a report from the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). Emirati officials met with a former senior official in Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) in Nairobi in April 2018 to discuss ways to undermine the SFG. The meeting occurred one day before Somali security forces seized 9.6 million U.S. dollars from the Emirati Ambassador to Somalia.[7]

The UN SEMG report revealed that Kenyan police intercepted a Nairobi-bound vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in February 2018 near Merti, Isiolo County, eastern Kenya. The operation would have been al Shabaab’s most ambitious attack outside Somalia since the attack in Garissa County, eastern Kenya in April 2015 that killed 148 people. Kenyan police found rifles in the car that had been imported by the SFG. The foiled attack represented the first known instance when al Shabaab used weapons imported by the SFG in an operation outside of Somalia.[8]

Al Shabaab militants claimed to kill three Puntland soldiers in Boosaaso town, Puntland on November 14. The attack has not been confirmed.[9]

A military court in Puntland sentenced four al Shabaab members and one ISIS member to death for terrorism on November 14. A large protest broke out in response to the death sentence of Abdirisak Hussein, an al Shabaab member, in Galkayo town, Mudug region, northern northern Somalia. The demonstrators blocked roads and burned rubber tires.[10]


[1] “Coalition, Yemen Rebels Agree on Informal Truce,” Associated Press, November 13, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/coalition-yemen-rebels-agree-on-informal-truce/4656508.html; “Violence calms in Yemen’s Hodeida in middle of diplomatic pressure,” Daily Star, November 14, 2018, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2018/Nov-14/469115-violence-calms-in-yemens-hodeida-in-middle-of-diplomatic-pressure.ashx; and “The Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen Welcomes Reports of Reduction of Hostilities in Hudaydah,” UN Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, November 13, 2018, https://osesgy.unmissions.org/special-envoy-secretary-general-yemen-welcomes-reports-reduction-hostilities-hudaydah.

[2] “Statement by Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis on Refueling Saudi Coalition Aircraft,” U.S. Department of Defense, https://dod.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1688151/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-james-n-mattis-on-refueling-saudi-coalition-a/; Phil Stewart, “U.S. halting refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen’s war,” Reuters, November 9, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-yemen-refueling/u-s-halting-refueling-of-saudi-led-coalition-aircraft-in-yemens-war-idUSKCN1NE2LJ; “al Wahishi meets with military leaders in the Russian Defense Ministry,” Saba New, November 13, 2018, https://www.sabanew.net/viewstory/41277; and Mareb Alward, Twitter, November 13, 2018, https://twitter.com/mareb_alward/status/1062380258391773184.

[3] “UAE welcomes ‘early convening’ of UN-led Yemen talks in Sweden,” Arab News, November 14, 2018, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1404896/middle-east; and Anwar Gargash, Twitter, November 14, 2018, https://twitter.com/AnwarGargash/status/1062698456681246720.

[4] “The leaders of the Reform in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh call for the president of the ‘transitional’ south and an end to the battles of Hudaydah.. What is happening? Is the end near?” Mareb Press, November 13, 2018, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?sid=144348.

[5] “Saudi Arabia invites head of UAE-backed Yemen group for talks,” Middle East Monitor, November 14, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181114-saudi-arabia-invites-head-of-uae-backed-yemen-group-for-talks/; and “The leaders of the “Reform in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh call for the president of the “transitional” south and an end to the battles of Hudaydah.. What is happening? Is the end near?” Mareb Press, November 13, 2018, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?sid=144348.

[6] Martin Plaut, “After decades of UN and self-imposed isolation, Eritrea is coming in from the cold,” Quartz Africa, November 14, 2018, https://qz.com/africa/1463506/un-security-council-lifts-eritrea-sanctions-arms-embargo/; and “UN Security Council lifts sanctions against Eritrea,” Africa News, November 14, 2018, http://www.africanews.com/2018/11/14/un-security-council-unanimously-votes-to-lift-sanctions-against-eritrea/.

[7] United Nations Security Council, Report on the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SMEG) (S/2018/1002), November 9, 2018, 27, available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ey-_f2dTbH5CYa-ssrg7egrpGb91BoDQ/view; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 14, 2018, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1062599110765764608.

[8] United Nations Security Council, Report on the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SMEG) (S/2018/1002), November 9, 2018, 27, available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ey-_f2dTbH5CYa-ssrg7egrpGb91BoDQ/view; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 14, 2018, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1062603007664242688.

[9] Abdulkadir Fiidka, Twitter, November 14, 2018, https://twitter.com/AOAFiidka/status/1062649960204824576.

[10] Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 14, 2018, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1062579527027736577; and Live from Mogadishu, Twitter, November 14, 2018, https://twitter.com/Mogadishu_News/status/1062260386815229952.

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