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: ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan detonates SVEST targeting security forces in Aden city; former President Saleh’s nephew expresses hope for Russian political intervention; former President Saleh criticizes Supreme Political Council (SPC) for excluding his political party from new government; al Houthi-Saleh forces attempt advance on eastern Taiz city; coalition airstrikes hit al Houthi-Saleh positions in Sana’a; UNICEF issues malnutrition warning

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates SVBIED at port entrance in Mogadishu, Somalia; likely U.S.-backed Somali SOF forces raid al Shabaab training camp in Caba, Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab militants conduct IED attack in Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region; al Shabaab militants briefly seize El Wak town, Gedo region; suspected al Shabaab militants conduct grenade attack on restaurant in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan claimed a suicide vest (SVEST) attack targeting security forces at al Sawlaban military base near Aden city on December 10. The attack killed 50 troops and wounded 70 others who had gathered to collect their salaries. ISIS conducted a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack inside a recruitment compound in the same area in late August 2016 that targeted army recruits lining up for breakfast.[1]
  • Brigadier General Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, the nephew of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, expressed hope that Russia will help to resolve Yemen’s political deadlock while visiting St. Petersburg on December 12. Brig. Gen. Saleh stated his plans to inform Russia about the Yemeni political deadlock and the destruction wrought by the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrike campaign during his visit. Former President Saleh offered Russia access to air and naval bases in Yemen to assist in counterterrorism operations in late August 2016.[2]
  • Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh criticized members of the al Houthi Ansar Allah bloc in the Supreme Political Council (SPC) for eliminating and dismissing members of his political party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), from positions in the newly formed National Salvation Government on December 9. The SPC is a governing body formed in July 2016 by a power-sharing agreement between Ansar Allah, which is the political arm of the al Houthi movement, and the GPC led by former President Saleh. The chairman of the SPC is senior al Houthi official Saleh al Samad. Former President Saleh said that the SPC should not act as an executive authority but should “illustrate policies and regulate government.” The SPC formed a 42-minister government in Sana’a on November 28.[3]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces attempted a ground assault under the cover of artillery fire on the eastern side of Taiz city on December 11. Hadi-allied forces claimed to repel the attack with minimal casualties. Taiz city remains contested as both sides seek to take control of key terrain in the city and its environs.[4]
  • Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted al-Houthi-Saleh positions in Sana’a on December 11. The strikes targeted transmission stations for radio, television, and other forms of communication, according to eyewitness reports. Other strikes targeted Republican Guard positions in northern Sana’a. The coalition also targeted sites held by the Republican Guard, which is loyal to former President Saleh, on December 12.[5]
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that 2.2 million Yemeni children are suffering from severe malnutrition and are in urgent need of care on December 12. The highest rates of malnutrition are in al Hudaydah, Sa’ada, Taiz, and Lahij governorates. Sa’ada’s youth malnutrition rate is the highest in the world. UNICEF Acting Representative in Yemen Dr. Mirashel Relano said that the organization needs $70 million to address the crisis.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) near the entrance to the main port in Mogadishu on December 11. The blast, which targeted a security checkpoint near the entrance gate, may have killed as many as 29 individuals and wounded nearly 50 others. Al Shabaab’s improvised explosive device (IED) capabilities have increased in sophistication and lethality over the last few years, according to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Suspected al Shabaab militants also killed two individuals during an SVBIED attack targeting security forces just north of Mogadishu in the Sinka Dheer area on December 10.[7]
  • Likely U.S. forces assisted Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces during a raid on an al Shabaab training camp and IED facility in Caba area, Lower Jubba region on December 10. The operators detained seven al Shabaab fighters. U.S. forces have resumed aiding Somali special operations forces (SOF) forces after a nearly two-month hiatus.[8]
  • Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated multiple IEDs targeting an AMISOM convoy in Mahaday town in Middle Shabelle region on December 12. The blast destroyed one of the vehicles and caused multiple casualties.[9]
  • Al Shabaab militants temporarily seized El Wak town in the Gedo region of Somalia on December 11. Approximately 100 al Shabaab fighters occupied the village, according to SNA sources. SNA forces reoccupied the town on December 12 with assistance from Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF). Al Shabaab also detonated an IED targeting Kenyan AMISOM and SNA forces near Qoqani town in Lower Jubba region on December 10. [10]
  • Suspected al Shabaab militants attacked a restaurant using multiple hand grenades in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region on December 11. The attack killed at least four individuals and wounded ten others. Witnesses claimed the masked assailants intended to kill SNA personnel inside the restaurant.[11]
[1] Mohammad Mukhashaf, “Suicide bomber kills at least 50 Yemeni troops in Aden,” Reuters, December 10, 2016,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, August, 29, 2016,
[2] “‘Hopefully Russia will solve conflict in Yemen’ - General,” Sputnik News, December 12, 2016,; and “ Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, August 22, 2016,  
[3] “Saleh slams Houthi allies in political row,” al Arabiya, December 9, 2016,
[4] “Army Troops and People’s committees break the progress of mercenaries heading towards Taiz,” Al Masirah, December 12, 2016,; “Night battles east of Taiz city after Houthis attack perimeter camp,” al Masdar, December 12, 2016,; and “Eleven houthis killed and wounded in slashes with the national army In Taiz,” Barakish, December 12, 2016,
[5] “Witnesses: Alliance airstrikes hit Al-Sabeen Square in capital Sanaa, no casualties,” al Masdar, December 12, 2016,; and “ Alliance airstrikes in Sanaa and the surrounding areas,” Nashwan News, December 12, 2016,
[6] “UNICEF warning: Malnutrition among children in Yemen is at the highest rate ever,” Facebook post from UNICEF Yemen, December 12, 2016,; and “UNICEF: Two million Yemeni Children suffer from acute malnutrition,” Barakish, December 12, 2016,
[7] “Mogadishu bombing: deadly blast at port of Somali capital,” The Guardian, December 11, 2016,; “Al-Shabab attack at Mogadishu port kills dozens,” Al Jazeera, December 11, 2016,; “At least 2 dead in Car bomb blast at Security checkpoint,” Shabelle News, December 10, 2016,; “Al shabaab claims killing 9 soldiers in car bomb attack,” Shabelle News, December 10, 2016,; “Car bomb kills two soldiers outside Mogadishu,” Goobjoog News, December 10, 2016; and Jason Patinkin, “AMISOM Troops Struggle to Counter IED Threat in Somalia,” Voice of Africa, October 13, 2016,
[8] “Somalia: Allied forces raid Al Shabaab near Kismayo,” Shabelle News, December 10, 2016,
[9] “AMISOM convoy targeted in IED blasts in Somalia,” Shabelle News, December 12, 2016,
[10] “Al shabaab briefly takes town near Kenya border,” Shabelle News, December 12, 2016,; and “KDF soldiers feared dead after a deadly IED Blast,” Shabelle News, December 10, 2016,
[11] “At least 4 dead, 10 people wounded in Kismayo blast,” Shabelle News, December 12, 2016,; and “Three people killed in hand grenade explosions in Kismaayo town,” Goobjoog News, December 12, 2016,  
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