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 Houthis seize a UAE cargo vessel; al Houthi drones target Saudi Arabia; UAE-backed forces continue offensive in Shabwah governorate

Somalia: Kenyan police arrest suspects in attacks in southeastern Kenya; IS-Somalia ambushes al Shabaab in northeastern Somalia; Somali leaders are divided on security and election issues in National Consultative Council discussions; Somali opposition gives National Consultative Council their election demands 

Yemen Security Brief:

The al Houthi movement seized a UAE-flagged cargo vessel off the coast of Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on January 2.[i] Al Houthi forces took the vessel to al Salif port in Hudaydah governorate.[ii] The Saudi-led coalition claimed the vessel was carrying hospital supplies.[iii] The al Houthis released pictures showing military equipment on board, which the Saudi-led coalition alleged the al Houthi movement placed aboard the vessel.[iv] The US State Department condemned the seizure on January 4.[v]

The al Houthi movement launched at least three drones and an unspecified “air threat” targeting Saudi Arabia on January 3. The al Houthis launched three drones targeting Najran city in southern Saudi Arabia.[vi] The al Houthis also launched an “air threat” targeting Taif in western Saudi Arabia.[vii] Saudi air defenses intercepted all four projectiles.

The UAE-backed 2nd Giants Brigade recaptured al Naqoub, Usaylan district, western Shabwah governorate from the al Houthi movement.[viii] The al Houthis captured Usaylan district in late September 2021.[ix]

Somalia Security Brief:

Kenyan police arrested eight suspects in connection with likely al Shabaab attacks in Lamu County, southeastern Kenya, on January 4.[x] Militants attacked communities in southwestern Lamu county on January 2.[xi] The attackers killed six people. Unknown militants also killed another civilian in a village in central Lamu County on January 4.[xii]

IS-Somalia fighters ambushed al Shabaab militants in the al Miskad Mountains, Bari region, northeastern Somalia.[xiii] Civilians said both sides suffered casualties. IS-Somalia and al Shabaab operate in the area and fight each other and state security forces for control.  

Election and security issues have divided the federal member state presidents during National Consultative Council discussions this week. Reducing state election sites and a unified statement telling President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo) to relinquish control of the armed forces are the two biggest points of contention. Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and three of the five presidents support amending the September 2020 election agreement and reducing the number of polling stations per state from two to one for security purposes.[xiv] Roble is also advocating for a unified statement concerning Farmaajo and the armed forces.[xv] Farmaajo allies Galmudug President Ahmed Abdi Kariye (Qoorqoor) and South West President Abdiaziz Laftagareen oppose Prime Minister Roble and the other FMS presidents on both issues.

The opposition group Council of Presidential Candidates gave a list of election demands to the federal member state leaders and Prime Minister Roble during a meeting on January 4.[xvi] Noteworthy components stipulated that 135 registered elders should choose the election delegates, election officials should verify and publish the names of the elders and delegates before election day, and election officials should re-run previously disputed elections and void all decisions of the dispute committee. The group said they would boycott elections if their proposals were not implemented.

[i] Mohammed Hatem and Vivian Nereim, “Yemen fighters hijack UAE-flagged ship, Saudi coalition says,” Bloomberg, January 3, 2022,

[ii] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Arab coalition says piracy launched from any port makes it a legitimate target,” January 4, 2022,

[iii] Mohammed Hatem and Vivian Nereim, “Yemen fighters hijack UAE-flagged ship, Saudi coalition says,” Bloomberg, January 3, 2022,

[iv] Vleckie, Twitter, January 3, 2022,

[v] Ned Price, “Houthis’ ship seizure threatens international trade and security,” US Department of State, January 4, 2022,

[vi] Al Arabiya, “Saudi Arabia.. Destruction of 5 drones launched towards the Kingdom,” January 4, 2022,

[vii] Al Arabiya, “Saudi defenses destroy a Houthi air target launched towards Taif,” January 3, 2022,

[viii] Yemeni Armed Forces Media Center, Twitter, January 4, 2022,

[ix] Anadolu Agency, “Yemen.. Houthis control the “Harib” district in Ma’rib,” September 22, 2021,

[x] Radio Risaala, “Kenya says it has arrested eight al-Shabaab members,” January 5, 2022,

[xi] Mohamed Yusuf, “Kenyan Authorities Suspect Al-Shabab Militants Kill 6 in Coastal County,” Voice of America, January 3, 2022,

[xii] Citizen TV Kenya, Twitter,, January 4, 2022.

[xiii] Goobjoog News, “Al-Shabaab, ISIS clash in Al-Miskaad mountain in Bari region,” January 5, 2022,

[xiv] Somali Affairs, “Somalia FMS leaders push for a single constituency for the parliamentary election,” January 4, 2022,

[xv] Garowe Online, “Somalia’s opposition issues fresh demands amid election crisis,” January 5, 2022,

[xvi] Ibid.  

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