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.

Yemen: Al Houthi commander reportedly dies fighting with Hezbollah in Syria; thousands gather to support former Yemeni president Saleh in Sana’a city, northern Yemen; top al Houthi movement officials call for unity; head of U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel visits Saudi-Yemeni border; suspected AQAP militants attack an al Hizam security forces checkpoint in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; UN condemns Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Sana’a city, northern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Russia’s Ambassador to Sudan suffers fatal heart attack in Khartoum, Sudan; al Shabaab assassinates Somali local administrator in Mogadishu; Somali security forces arrest al Shabaab militants in Qoryooley, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi commander Mohammed al Warafi reportedly died fighting alongside Hezbollah forces in Palmyra, Syria in early to mid August. Sana’a based social media accounts began praising al Warafi in mid-August before southern Yemeni sources reported the story. Al Houthi-Saleh sources have not confirmed al Warafi’s death, however. There has also been an increase in Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) casualties in Palmyra, Syria during the same time period as al Warfai’s death. Al Warafi was reportedly part of a group of al Houthi fighters sent to Syria in 2014 after the al Houthi-Saleh faction seized control of Sana’a city. A defected Syrian Air Force Intelligence Brigadier General claimed that Abdul Malik al Houthi sent 200 al Houthi militants to fight in northern Syria in 2012.[1]

Thousands of supporters of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh gathered in Sana'a city to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party on August 24. Saleh emphasized his commitment to reuniting Yemen under a single government and  praised the sacrifice of soldiers who died on the frontline. Al Houthi officials called for a suspension of all mass-gatherings on August 23 amid rising tensions between the al Houthi movement and Saleh. Local sources did not report any clashes between Saleh supporters and al Houthi movement forces during the rally. The al Houthi movement also staged a smaller demonstration on August 24, protesting against the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen.[2]

Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi called for unity and warned of enemies’ attempts to create internal strife during a speech on August 23. He stressed the importance of protecting citizens against the crimes of the Saudi-led coalition. Former president of the Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al Houthi, called for an end to the movement’s slide into internal conflict in an appeal to prioritize the interests of the nation on August 23.[3]

Head of U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel visited the Saudi-Yemeni border in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Jizan region and met with lieutenant General Fahed Bin Turki, as well as other Saudi commanders and troops on August 23. General Joseph Votel’s objective was to gain a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s challenges at the border and assess how the Saudi air campaign against al Houthi-Saleh movement has complicated the Saudi-coalition’s fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).[4]

Suspected AQAP militants fired at an al Hizam security forces checkpoint in al Qashah area in Ahwar district, Abyan governorate, southwestern Yemen on August 23. AQAP militants and security forces clashed for an hour in al Qashah, according to local sources.[5] 

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric condemned the Saudi-coalition airstrike on a hotel in Arhab district, Sana’a governorate on August 23. The airstrike killed at least 41 civilians with a number of individuals still missing, according to a UN investigation. The international community frequently criticizes the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate bombing of al Houthi-Saleh territory in Yemen.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Russia’s Ambassador to Sudan Migayas Shirinskiy died of a heart attack in Khartoum, Sudan on August 23. Sudanese Police ruled out the possibility of an assassination attempt. Migayas Shirinskiy is the fourth Russian Ambassador to die in a foreign country since January 2017.[7]

Al Shabaab militants assassinated a Somali local government official in Karan district, Mogadishu on August 24. Al Shabaab assassinates government officials in an attempt to destabilize the government.[8]

Somali security forces arrested several al Shabaab militants near Qoryooley town, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on August 24. Security officials responded to reports of suspected al Shabaab militants demanding money and food supplies from residents in Qoryooley town. Al Shabaab maintains a support zone in Qoryooley and controls territory outside of the town.[9] 

[1] “Houthi leader killed fighting with Hezbollah in Syria,” Aden Tomorrow, August 22, 2017,; Abdul Baset Abdul Hashemi, Facebook, August 17, 2017,; Amir al Samoud, Twitter, August 16. 2017,; D. Abdul Qadir al Hafi, Twitter, August 16, 2017,; Sinan Alsaidi, Twitter, August 16, 2017,; Marie Donovan and Daniel Amir, “Iran News Round Up,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, August 16, 2017,; and “Report: Yemen Houthis fighting for Assad in Syria,” The Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2013,
[2] “Yemen’s Saleh rallies followers in Sanaa amid Houthi rift,” Reuters, August 24, 2017,; Ahmed Al-Haj, “Yemenis backing ex-leader rally amid strains in rebel camp,” Associated Press, August 24, 2017,; Ali Abdullah Saleh, Facebook, August 24, 2017,; Noah Browning, “Pro-Houthi fighters call powerful Yemen ally ‘evil,’ escalating feud,” Reuters, August 23, 2017,; and “Crowds gathered in the streets of Sana’a,” Sabanews, August 24, 2017,
[3] “The head of the Supreme Revolutionary Party praises the sincerity of the popular committees and affirms that he will not accept the country’s slide into internal conflicts and demands an apology from the conference,” Al Masirah, August 23, 2017,; and “Abdul malik al-Houthi calls on supporters of God and GPC to take responsibility and caution from the efforts of enemies,” Al Masirah, August 23, 2017,
[4] Lolita C. Baldor, “US commandre visits Yemen border for firsthand look at the war,” Associated Press, August 24, 2017,
[5] “Unknown gunmen target a security checkpoint in Ahwar, Abyan,” Aden Tomorrow, August 24, 2017,
[6] Faisal Edroos, “UN probes Yemen airstrike as death toll ‘rises to 41’,” Al Jazeera, August 24, 2017,; and “The United Nations says that the raids launched by the coalition in Sanaa have increased the suffering of Yemenis,” Al Masdar Online, August 24, 2017,
[7] "Ambassador to Sudan is fourth Russian diplomat to die since January," CNN, August 24, 2017,
[8] Garowe Online, Twitter, August 24, 2017,
[9] Garowe Online, Twitter, August 24, 2017,; and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Qoryoley District Administration Arrest Men Suspected To Be Members Of Al-Shabaab,” Intelligence Briefs, August 24, 2017,

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