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 fighters kill former president Ali Abdullah Saleh; al Houthis fire cruise missile aimed at UAE

Horn of Africa: Galmudug State and Ahlu Sunna Wa al Jama’a sign power sharing agreement; Somalia registers first political parties in 50 years; Kenyan police arrest top opposition advisor; al Shabaab militants ambush SNA force in Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi forces killed former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh after three days of clashes in Sana’a city on December 4. Saleh had called for a “new page” with the Saudi-led coalition and called on Yemenis to mobilize against the al Houthi movement on December 2. The coalition and the internationally recognized Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi welcomed Saleh’s statements and promised to support any party that opposes the al Houthi movement. Al Houthi leaders released several statements disavowing Saleh, including al Houthi movement spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam who cited Saleh’s statements as justification for his killing. Pro-Saleh forces, supported by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, mobilized on December 2, seizing al Houthi positions in Sana’a and other regions. Pro-Saleh forces reportedly seized al Bayda and Ibb cities, central Yemen, while al Houthi forces secured Hajjah city, northern Yemen on December 3. Al Houthi forces reclaimed territory in Sana’a on December 3, where they overran Saleh-affiliated media stations and targeted the homes of key tribal leadership. Hadi government forces led by Vice President Ali Mohsen al Ahmar began mobilizing overnight from neighboring Nihm district and Ma’rib governorate to support the pro-Saleh faction in Sana’a but failed to reach the city before Saleh’s death. Clashes also broke out in Taiz city between pro-Saleh forces and al Houthi forces on December 2.[1] 

Al Houthi movement forces reportedly launched a cruise missile at the Brakha nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi, UAE on December 3. Hadi government Sixth Military District forces reportedly found parts of the missile in al Matammah district, western al Jawf governorate, northern Yemen. Emirati officials denied that the al Houthi movement launched a missile at the UAE. Al Houthi forces claimed to launch a ballistic missile at Abu Dhabi for the first time on August 30, though the launch remains unconfirmed. Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash called on all Yemenis to protect the country against the Iranian-backed al Houthi movement on December 3.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Galmudug State and Ahlu Sunna Wa al Jama’a (ASWJ) signed a power sharing agreement to administer the region in tandem on December 3. ASWJ is a moderate Sufi paramilitary group that has fought against al Shabaab with the Somali Federal Government (SFG). ASWJ forces captured Galmudug’s capital, Dhusamareb, from al Shabaab in April 2011 but forced the Galmudug government to temporarily move its capital to Adado in an ensuing power struggle.[3]

The Somali National Independent Electoral Commission registered seven political parties on November 3. The parties are the country’s first since the 1960s. Somalia plans to hold an election with universal suffrage in 2020. The SFG currently utilizes a 4.5 clan system that provides equal representation for the four largest clans in Somalia. Smaller clans hold the remaining legislative seats or federal positions.[4]

Kenyan police arrested top advisor to Kenya’s opposition party, David Ndii, on charges of inciting violence on November 3. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed that the arrest was intended to scare and divide Kenyans. David Ndii is a prominent economist, a critic of President Uhuru Kenyatta, and a vocal leader of a secessionist movement in western Kenya. Police conducted the arrest while Ndii vacationed in Diani, Kwale County, southwestern Kenya.[5]  

Al Shabaab militants ambushed Somali National Army (SNA) forces traveling along the Beledweyne-Mogadishu highway near Balcad, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on November 3. An al Shabaab spokesperson claimed that the group killed a senior SNA commander during the attack. Al Shabaab captured Basra and Geed Faqi, located less than 15 miles from Balcad, in November.[6]

[1] Ali Abdullah Saleh, Facebook, December 3, 2017,; Saad Abedine, Twitter, December 2, 2017,; “Yemen’s ex-president Saleh shot dead after switching sides in civil war,” Reuters, December 4, 2017,; “President of the Republic presides over an extraordinary meeting of his advisors,” Saba New, December 2, 2017,; “Al Huthi militias: the killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh has been established,” Al Arabiya, December 2, 2017,; “Houthis threaten to kill Ali Abdullah Saleh,” El Watan News, December 2, 2017,; Al Guneid, Twitter, December 3, 2017,; Nawal Al Maghafi, Twitter, December 3, 2017,; “Houthis hijack conference leaders in Hajjah and regain control of the city,” December 3, 2017,; Anas Shahari, Twitter, December 3, 2017,; “Houthis are trying to force Yemen Today to broadcast positions against the conference,” Al Motamar, December 3, 2017,; and “Saudi-led airstrikes support Yemen’s Saleh as he shifts against Houthis,” Reuters, December 3, 2017,
[2] “The rocket force announces the strike of the nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi with a winged cruise missile,” Al Masirah, December 3, 2017,; WAM News, Twitter, December 3, 2017,; Michael Horowitz, Twitter December 3, 2017,; Jamaran News, Twitter, December 3, 2017,; and “A rocket fired by al Houthis toward the UAE capital falls in al Matammah district, western al Jawf,” Al Masdar, December 3, 2017,
[3] “Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna ink power share deal to end years of rivalry,” Radio Shabelle, December 3, 2017,
[4] “Somalia formally registers first political parties in 50 years,” Goobjoog, December 4, 2017,
[5] John Aglionby, Kenya police detain senior opposition official David Ndii,” Financial Times, December 4, 2017,; and “Odinga advisor arrested on suspicion of inciting violence, Kenya police say,” Reuters, December 4, 2017,
[6] Shabaab Claims Killing Somali Military Official In Ambush, Reports Surrender Of Two Sna Officers, SITE, December 4, 2017, available by subscription at

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