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: ICRC releases details of prisoner exchange; Saudi-led coalition airstrikes target Sana’a airbase; Hadi government and al Houthi movement announce representatives for monitoring al Hudaydah ceasefire; anti-al Houthi media report death of al Houthi movement leader’s brother; President Hadi meets with UK ambassador to Yemen; Hadi government forces intercept al Houthi UAV in Ma’rib governorate

Horn of Africa: U.S. considers supporting airport and port upgrades in Somalia; former SFG energy minister wins South West State elections; Islamic State-linked news agency releases video of ambush on al Shabaab in Puntland; al Shabaab assassinates senior Somali security official

Yemen Security Brief

The International Committee of the Red Cross (IRC) revealed details of the prisoner exchange agreed on by that President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and the al Houthi movement last week in Stockholm. The ICRC will conduct a four-week review to verify the identities of the 16,000 individuals who are set to be released. The ICRC will have 10 days to arrange their transfers. The prisoner exchange could include people detained outside of Yemen as well as some foreigners held in the country.[1]

Saudi-led coalition aircraft conducted two airstrikes against the al Houthi-controlled Daylami Air Force Base in Sana’a International Airport on December 19. The coalition stated that it destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that al Houthi forces were preparing to launch. Al Houthi spokesperson Yehya Sarea denounced the airstrike and said that it hinders UN-led peace efforts.[2]

Hadi government Foreign Minister Khalid al Yamani and al Houthi movement spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam announced their representatives to the Redeployment Coordination Committee that will monitor the al Hudaydah ceasefire on December 17 and 18, respectively.[3]

Anti-al Houthi sources reported that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed Abdul Khaliq al Houthi, an al Houthi military commander and brother of al Houthi movement leader Abdel Malik al Houthi, in southwestern Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on December 18. Anti-al Houthi reported Abdul Khaliq al Houthi’s death in separate instances in August and Septembe.[4]

President Hadi met with British Ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 18. Hadi and Aron discussed ways to implement the UN-mediated agreement.[5]

Hadi government forces intercepted an al Houthi UAV in Ma’rib governorate, northern Yemen on December 18, according to anti-al Houthi sources. The sources claim the UAV was Iranian-made.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

CorrectionA previous version of this Gulf of Aden Security Review stated that the U.S. announced new assistance to Somalia for 2019. The U.S. statement actually referred to ongoing assistance rather than new commitments.The United States Mission in Somalia announced on DEC 18 that it contributed 420 million U.S. dollars toward humanitarian assistance in 2018 in addition 110 million USD toward stabilization and governance efforts. The U.S. Mission in Somalia said that the U.S. is considering airport and port upgrades as well as debt relief in order to attract investment to Somalia. The U.S. re-established a permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia on December 2 for the first time since it closed its Mogadishu embassy in January 1991.[7]

Former Somali Federal Government (SFG) energy minister and parliamentarian Abdiaziz Hassan Mohame “Lafta Garen” won the South West State presidential election held in Baidoa, Bay region, on December 19. Lafta Garen received 103 out of 147 votes from South West State parliamentarians. Garen has been supportive of the SFG. South West State authorities immediately swore Lafta Garen in as president following the announcement. Former deputy al Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow was not on the ballot. SFG security forces arrested Robow in Baidoa forces last week for mobilizing militias and smuggling weapons into Baidoa. Somalia National Army (SNA) and Ethiopian forces from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) blocked roads and deployed around Baidoa ahead of the elections.[8]

The Islamic State-linked ‘Amaq News Agency released a video on December 19 showing Islamic State militants ambush al Shabaab militants in Puntland on December 15. The Islamic State in Somalia claimed on December 16 to kill 14 al Shabaab fighters in Bur Meirale, Puntland, but the attack was not confirmed.[9]

Al Shabaab claimed to assassinate a senior Somali security official in Galbole, Middle Shabelle region, Southern Somalia, on December 19. Al Shabaab claimed that the officer was an undercover agent for AMISOM.[10]

[1] “Red Cross: prisoners swap includes 16,000 names,” Youm7, December 19, 2018,; and “Yemen’s warring sides agree to swap thousands of prisoners,” DW, December 19, 2018,

[2] “Coalition destroys al Houthi drone in Sana’a Airport,” Al Arabiya, December 19, 2018,; “Saudi-led coalition target Daylami Air Base in Sana’a,” Al Masdar Online, December 18, 2018,; and “Al Houthi spokesperson says targeting Sana’a Airport hinders UN-led peace efforts,” Saba, December 19, 2018,  

[3] “The Hadi government announce the names of its representatives in the RCC in al Hudaydah,” Bawabatii, December 18, 2018,; and “Yemen ceasefire monitors to deploy in Hodeidah,” The Defense Post, December 18, 2018,

[4] “The right hand person to Abdul Malik al Houthi killed,” Elfagr, December 18, 2018,; “Reports that the right hand person to Abdul Malik al Houthi killed,” Bawabatii, December 18, 2018,; “Reports that the right hand person to Abdul Malik al Houthi is killed,” Sama Press, December 18, 2018,.; and “Reports that al Houthi leader movement’s brother killed in an airstrike,” Al Bawaba, August 31, 2018,

[5] “President Hadi meets UK ambassador to Yemen,” Saba New, December 19, 2018,

[6] “Hadi government forces destroy an al Houthi UAV in Ma’rib,” Mosnad, December 18, 2018,

[7] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “US announces over $900m critical investment in Somalia,” Africa News, December 19, 2018,; “US signals to provide more than $900 million in aid for Somalia in critical investment,” Goobjoog, December 18, 2018,; and Donald Yamamoto, “Statement by Ambassador Yamamoto on U.S. Support to Somalia,” U.S. Mission to Somalia, December 18, 2018,

[8] “SWS presidential election kicks off today in Baidoa town,” Goobjoog, December 19, 2018,; Harun Maruf, Twitter, December 19, 2018,; “ Lafta Gareen elected as the new President of Southwest state,” Halbeeg, December 19, 2018,; and “Former federal gov’t minister elected as the Southwest state president,” Goobjoog, December 19, 2018,

[9] Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State video purportedly shows fight with Shabaab,” Long War Journal, December 18, 2018,; and Critical Threats Project, December 18, 2018,

[10] “Al-Shabaab says it killed security official in Middle Shabelle region,” Radio Shabelle, December 19, 2018,

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