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: U.S. Department of State criticizes al Houthis in Iran sanction announcement; UN Special Envoy for Yemen presents plan for administration of al Hudaydah governorate; al Houthi-Saleh political parties criminalize criticism of their alliance; coalition airstrikes kill civilians in Taiz governorate, western Yemen; Hadi government-aligned forces seize territory in western Taiz governorate; Hadi government-aligned forces clash with al Houthi-Saleh fighters in al Jawf governorate, northern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Somali security forces launch operation targeting al Shabaab strongholds in Bay region; al Shabaab urges East Africans to fight in Somalia; al Shabaab claims attacks on security forces in southern Somalia; al Shabaab assassinates intelligence officer in Mogadishu; Kenyan government receives anti-riot gear in preparation for elections

Yemen Security Brief

The U.S. Department of State announced new sanctions on 18 entities and individuals for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, military procurement, and criminal organizations on July 18. The statement condemned Iran for providing advanced weaponry to the al Houthi-Saleh faction. It also criticized al Houthi-Saleh fighters for threatening freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and attacking Saudi Arabia. Al Houthi-Saleh fighters have fired surface-to-ship missiles at Emirati and American ships in the Red Sea and frequently launch ballistic missiles into southwestern Saudi Arabia.[1]

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed presented a management plan for al Hudaydah governorate. The plan, which Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced to the Arab League on July 17, calls for an administrative council comprised of officials from the al Houthi-Saleh faction, President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, and third-party Yemeni political organizations. Ould Cheikh Ahmed also called on the Saudi-led coalition to cease airstrikes in al Hudaydah and the al Houthi-Saleh faction to disarm throughout the governorate. The plan calls for World Bank or UN oversight of the central bank in al Hudaydah. Ould Cheikh Ahmed also encouraged countries to open consulates in al Hudaydah governorate. The al Houthi bloc continues to express its discontent with the UN political process and its intention to reject Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s proposals.[2]

The al Houthi political party Ansar Allah signed an agreement with former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC) to criminalize any criticism of their alliance on July 18. The agreement counters accusations of a growing rift between the al Houthi movement and Saleh supporters. The al Houthi-Saleh faction also transferred ten abducted Yemeni journalists to the Specialized Criminal Court in Sana’a city on July 19 in preparation for their trial. The al Houthi-Saleh faction has detained these journalists for over two years.[3] 

Saudi-led coalition warplanes killed approximately twenty internally displaced civilians in al Atira village, Mawza’ district, western Taiz governorate on July 18 during operations targeting al Houthi-Saleh forces. The Yemeni Minister for Human Rights, Mohammed Askar, called for an investigation of the strike. Saudi-led coalition warplanes conduct frequent airstrikes in western Taiz governorate to support Hadi government-aligned forces that seek to control Yemen’s western coast.[4]

Hadi government-aligned forces seized several villages in al Hamli area, Mawza’ district, western Taiz governorate on July 18. Hadi government-aligned forces continued efforts to take control of Risyan Bridge in Mawza’ district. This bridge lies on the primary roadway connecting Taiz and al Hudaydah governorates, where Hadi government-aligned forces also reportedly established a checkpoint.[5]

Hadi government-aligned forces clashed with al Houthi-Saleh fighters in southwestern al Jawf governorate on July 18. Hadi government-aligned forces killed ten al Houthi-Saleh fighters in a battle on Jabal Ham, northern al Matun district. Hadi government-aligned soldiers and al Houthi-Saleh forces last clashed in al Matun district on July 12. Hadi government forces seek to control southern al Jawf governorate to prepare for an offensive into northern Sana’a governorate.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Southwest State security forces launched an operation intended to recapture al Shabaab’s strongholds in Bay region, southern Somalia on July 19. Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers are supporting the Southwest State forces, which seek to reclaim territory between Bardale town and Baidoa in Bay region. Security forces will also deconstruct al Shabaab roadblocks in the region. [7]

Al Shabaab released a propaganda video urging African Muslims to join al Shabaab in Somalia on July 18. The video features a Tanzanian foreign fighter, who urges Muslims from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and Angola to wage jihad in Somalia. The video also features a speech from late Kenyan cleric Shekhe Aboud Rogo, advising the audience that the mujahideen will welcome foreigners who travel to Somalia for jihad. This video marks the fifth installment in al Shabaab’s “Inspire the Believers” propaganda series, which features deceased foreign fighters.[8]

Al Shabaab took responsibility for several attacks on security forces in southern Somalia on July 19. Al Shabaab claimed to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a SNA convoy in Yantoy, Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on July 19. Al Shabaab also claimed to take four SNA soldiers, including one officer, as hostages in Jilib, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia on July 19.[9] 

Al Shabaab detonated a car bomb targeting a Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officer in Mogadishu on July 19. Al Shabaab often assassinates elected and military officials in the capital to challenge the Somali Federal Government.[10]

The Kenyan government purchased anti-riot gear in preparation for the country’s August 8 general election. The Kenyan government received several shipments of South Korean-made crowd control vehicles, tear gas canisters, batons, and assault rifles at Mombasa Port this month. The closely contested presidential election may impact Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia, which is a divisive issue amongst Kenyan voters.[11]

[1] “U.S. announces new Iran-related sanctions,” U.S. Department of State, July 18, 2017,; “Coalition: Emirati Ship Attacked by Guided Missile as it Exited Port of Mokha,” Barakish Net, June 15, 2017,; and "Yemeni missile strikes Saudi Jizan province,” Al Masdar News, June 22, 2017,
[2] “UN Special Envoy Releases Details of the Plan for al-Hudaydah,” The Yemen Peace Project, July 18, 2017,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, July 18, 2017,
[3] “The Houthis and Saleh Conference sign an agreement to criminalize and hold accountable anyone who criticizes the practices of their alliance,” Al Masdar Online, July 18, 2017,; “The text of the media controls signed between the General People’s Congress (GPC) and Ansar Allah,” Sabanews, July 18, 2017,; and “The coup authorities in Sana’a transfer ten kidnapped journalists for criminal prosecution,” Al Masdar Online, July 19, 2017,
[4] “Saudi-led coalition attack kills 20 near Yemen's Taiz,” Al Jazeera, July 19, 2017,; and “Local source says at least 20 civilians killed in coalition airstrike in Mawza’, western Taiz,” Al Masdar Online, July 18, 2017,
[5] “Yemen troops retake Taiz-Hodeida road,” Gulf News, July 18, 2017,; and “Heavy Fighting in Yemen’s Mokha district and advances in al Silw,” Al Tagheer, July 19, 2017,
[6] “Ten al Houthis killed in battles with the coalition on Jabal Ham, western al Jawf governorate,” Al Masdar Online, July 18, 2017,; and “A number of mercenaries killed and wounded in an attack on their positions in al Matun, al Jawf,” Sabanews, July 12, 2017,
[7] “​Somalia: Allied forces launch fresh offensive against al-Shabaab,” Garowe Online, July 19, 2017,
[8] “Second Tanzanian Fighter Promotes Immigration and Jihad to East and Southeast African Muslims in Shabaab Video,” SITE Intelligence Group, July 18, 2017, available by subscription at
[9] Al Shabaab claims to detonated IED targeting SNA in Yantoy, Lower Jubba region, Telegram, July 19, 2017; and Al Shabaab takes SNA soldiers as hostages in Jilib, Telegram, July 19, 2017.
[10] Al Shabaab detonates car bomb targeting NISA officer on Mogadishu, Telegram, July 19, 2017.
[11] “'Riot control vehicles arrive' ahead of Kenya's election,” BBC, July 18, 2017,

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