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: Obama administration blocks arms sale to Saudi Arabia; Saudi King Salman says Saudi Arabia will not allow Yemen to be a base for foreign interference; Hadi government forces attack al Houthi-Saleh positions in Sa’ada governorate; al Houthi delegation meets Russian diplomat in Moscow; coalition conducts airstrikes in Sana’a and Taiz governorates; Hadi government forces and al Houthi-Saleh forces clash on the border of Bayda and Abyan governorates, southern Yemen; al Houthi-Saleh forces conduct cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab attacks SNA base near Qoryooley, Lower Shabelle region; armed civilians kill al Shabaab commander in Barsane near Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region; local security forces interdict arms intended for ASWJ forces near Mahas, Middle Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief

  • The White House blocked an arms sale to Saudi Arabia due to civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in Yemen. The Obama administration blocked a $350 million sale of 16,000 guided munition kits on December 13. Administration officials stated that upgrading the precision of the explosives would not necessarily improve the coalition’s targeting. A senior U.S. official said that blocking the sale is a “corrective measure,” that follows a review of the October 8 coalition airstrike that killed more than 100 civilians at a funeral hall in Sana’a. The White House blocked the sale of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia in late May 2016 for similar reasons. Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri declined to comment on the matter. This decision follows the U.S. Department of State’s approval of a multi-billion dollar sale of military aircraft and support weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, UAE, and other regional allies on December 8.[1]
  • Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud stated that Saudi Arabia does not seek to interfere in Yemen’s internal affairs on December 14. King Salman stressed that Saudi Arabia will not allow Yemen to become a base for any foreign power to undermine Yemeni security and stability. King Salman also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support for the UN’s efforts to reach a political solution in Yemen.[2]
  • Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government clashed with al Houthi-Saleh forces in the border crossing area of Baqim, northeastern Sa’ada governorate on December 14. The Saudi-led coalition provided air support. A Hadi government military commander announced intent to advance military operations in northern and eastern Sa’ada governorate on December 14. Hadi government forces claimed to kill commanders from the al Houthi Movement and the Republican Guard, an elite force loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi government forces seized Baqim district on December 4. Hadi government forces began an offensive into Sa’ada governorate, a historic stronghold for the al Houthi movement, in mid-October. [3]
  • An al Houthi political delegation met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow on December 14. This meeting follows a call from Brigadier General Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh for Russia to help resolve Yemen’s political deadlock on December 12.[4]
  • Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted several al Houthi-Saleh positions in northern and central Yemen on December 14. Coalition airstrikes struck al Houthi-Saleh positions in coastal al Zahra area, Mokha district, Taiz governorate on December 14. The coalition also launched two airstrikes on positions in the center of Sana’a city near Sabeen Square and the Presidential Palace on December 14. Three other strikes targeted a military base in southeastern Sana’a.[5]
  • Hadi government forces clashed with al Houthi-Saleh forces on the border between al Bayda and Abyan governorates on December 14. Hadi government forces claimed to seize a strategic site near Zahra area, al Bayda governorate.[6]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces conducted a cross-border sniper and mortar attack in Jazan Province, Saudi Arabia on December 14. The attack killed at least one Saudi soldier. Pro-al Houthi media sources claimed to have killed twenty Saudi soldiers in December 2016.[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants attacked a Somali National Army (SNA) base near Qoryooley in Lower Shabelle region on December 14, causing an unspecified number of casualties. Al Shabaab keeps forces near Qoryooley town, which sits just 20 kilometers from the strategic port city of Marka. An al Shabaab militant killed an SNA soldier in Qoryooley on December 12. SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces detained five suspected al Shabaab fighters in Qoryooley on December 6.[8]
  • Armed civilians killed al Shabaab commander Abdirahman Rahole in Barsane area outside Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region on December 14. The al Shabaab militants angered local civilians when they seized money and livestock, according to one of the civilians.[9]
  • Local Somali security forces seized a weapons shipment intended for Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a (ASWJ) near Mahas in Middle Shabelle region on December 14. ASWJ, a Sufi Islamist paramilitary group, controls Dhusamareeb town in Galgaduud region. ASWJ fought alongside the Somali government to drive al Shabaab from southern Somalia in 2011, but has since clashed with SNA forces.[10]
[1] “U.S. Blocks Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia Amid Concerns Over Yemen War,” New York Times, December 13, 2016,; “With small changes, U.S. maintains military aid to Saudi Arabia despite rebukes over Yemen carnage,” Washington Post, December 13, 2016,; and “No comment from Saudi-led coalition spokesman on the U.S. decision to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” Aden Tomorrow, December 14, 2016,
[2] “King Salman: Yemen’s security, the Kingdom’s security, and a political solution is the resolution for peace,” Aden Times, December 14, 2016,
[3] “Houthi leader killed on the war front in Saada,” Barakish, December 14, 2016; “The deaths of a number of al-Houthi-Saleh leaders in battles on a number of fronts in northern governorates,” Aden Tomorrow, December 14, 2016,; “Citizens wounded in the continued aggressive targeting in Saada,” al Masirah, December 14, 2016,; and “Directives form the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to advance into Maran mountains,” Yemen Press, December 14, 2016,  
[4]“Ansar Allah delegation meets with Russian deputy foreign minister and adviser to the Russian president for the Middle East, Russian Foreign Ministry,” Al Masirah, December 14, 2016; Muhammad Abdu Salam, Twitter, December 14, 2016,
[5] “A chain of strikes in the capital Sana’a,” Barakish, December 14, 2016,; and “Airline aggression destroys communication networks in Mokha in Taiz,” al Motamar, December 14, 2016,
[6] “Legitimate resistance forces take control of strategic position in Bayda just hours after Houthis controlled it,” Aden Tomorrow, December 14, 2016
[7] “Killing and wounding of a number of Saudi soldiers in Jizan,” al Masirah, December 14, 2016,
[8] “Al shabaab raids military base near Qoryoley town,” Shabelle News, December 14, 2016,
[9] “Al shabaab commander killed in Southern Somalia,” Shabelle News, December 14, 2016,
[10] “Ahlu Sunna-bound arms seized near Mahas town,” Shabelle News, December 14, 2016,
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