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: 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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