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. Air Force commander states Iran provided missile capabilities to al Houthi movement; Saudi-led coalition to continue al Hudaydah seaport blockade; President Hadi announces impending formation of national coalition in Aden city, southern Yemen; Emirati-backed security forces clash with AQAP militants in Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen; reported U.S. airstrikes target Salafi-jihadi militants in central and southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: U.S. conducts three airstrikes targeting al Shabaab and ISIS in Somalia; Somaliland holds presidential election; Kenyan opposition party plans to swear in its leader as president pending Supreme Court ruling; Somali security forces destroy al Shabaab base in Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia; Ethiopia bans protests

Yemen Security Brief

Commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command Southwest Asia Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian stated Iran provided the capability for the al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile program on November 10. Harrigian noted that Iranian markings have been found on the ballistic missiles launched by al Houthi-Saleh forces into Saudi Arabia. The White House condemned Iranian facilitation of al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile capabilities on November 8, stating these missile systems did not exist in Yemen prior to the start of the conflict in 2015.[1]

The Saudi-led coalition announced on November 13 its intent to continue blocking al Hudaydah seaport, the main aid route into Yemen, until the coalition is satisfied that the al Houthi-Saleh movement cannot use the port to smuggle in weapons. The al Houthi-Saleh movement threatened to attack enemy warships and oil tankers in response to the blockade on November 12. The Saudi-led coalition will reopen ports in internationally recognized Hadi government territory in Aden, Mokha, and al Mukalla, southern and eastern Yemen. The majority of Yemen’s population resides in al Houthi-Saleh controlled territory and relies on aid and imports delivered through al Hudaydah, however. UNICEF stated on November 10 that Yemen is set to run out fuel and vaccines in a month if the Saudi-led coalition continues to block al Hudaydah seaport and Sana’a International Airport.[2]

President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi announced the formation of a national coalition in Aden city to strengthen the unity of the government and facilitate the return to political negotiations on November 13. Representatives from the General People’s Congress, the Islah Party, the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Nasserist Unionist People's Organisation and the Southern Movement signed the statement. The Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) announced the formation of a national assembly in Aden in mid-October, and have since established local STC branches in multiple southern and eastern governorates. The Hadi government has been unable to hold a session of parliament since 2015.[3] 

Emirati-backed Shabwani Elite Forces raided an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) stronghold in al Hawta town, Mayfa’a district, central Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen between November 10 and 12. AQAP militants killed one Shabwani Elite soldier and wounded seven others as Shabwani Elite Forces entered al Hawta on November 10. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes supported the raid. Shabwani Elite Forces troops seized a large weapons cache in a house in al Hawta on November 12. Shabwani Elite Forces participated in an Emirati and American-backed offensive to secure major cities and energy infrastructure from AQAP from in Shabwah governorate in early August.[4]

U.S. airstrikes targeted Salafi-jihadi militants in central and southern Yemen on November 10. One airstrike killed two Salafi-jihadi militants in al Quraishyah district, al Bayda governorate, southern Yemen. Local news sources provided conflicting reports on whether the militants were affiliated with ISIS or AQAP. A second airstrike killed two AQAP militants riding a motorcycle near Jabal Akad, Lawder district, northern Abyan governorate, southern Yemen.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed three airstrikes targeting al Shabaab and ISIS militants in Somalia on November 11 and 12. The first airstrike targeted al Shabaab militants in Gaduud near Kismayo, Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on November 11. AFRICOM stated the militants attacked an American and Somali convoy prior to the strike. The second airstrike targeted al Shabaab militants in Basra, Lower Shabelle region, 20 miles from Mogadishu on November 12. Al Shabaab captured Basra on November 10. The third airstrike targeted ISIS militants in the Galgala Mountains, Bari region, Puntland, northern Somalia on November 12. The U.S. conducted its first two airstrikes targeting ISIS in northern Somalia on November 3.[6] 

Somaliland held its first presidential election since 2010 on November 13. Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamoud Silanyo announced he would not seek re-election in early 2017 due to corruption allegations. Somaliland is internationally recognized as part of Somalia but it seeks independence from the Somali Federal Government. Somaliland will announce the election results on November 17.[7]

The Kenyan opposition party declared its intention to swear in presidential challenger Raila Odinga as president if the majority party inaugurates incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta. The opposition party also planned daily mass demonstrations calling for a new presidential election, election reforms, and ethnic civil rights reforms. Kenyatta won an October 26 re-run election after the opposition party boycotted, citing concerns over the election’s credibility. The Kenyan Supreme Court will announce its ruling on three petitions challenging the re-run election on November 20. The presidential inauguration will occur on November 28 pending the court’s ruling.[8] 

Somali security forces destroyed an al Shabaab base in Jilib, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia on November 11, according to the Somali Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman. Minister Osman claimed that Somali forces killed 81 al Shabaab militants, destroyed materials for building explosives, and destroyed multiple al Shabaab vehicles. Al Shabaab uses its stronghold in Jilib to launch attacks on Kismayo, 75 miles south of Jilib. Kismayo served as a vital financial and logistical center for al Shabaab’s territorial claims before AMISOM forces recaptured the city in 2012.[9]

Ethiopian Defense Minister Siraj Fagessa announced a country-wide ban on protests in an attempt to disrupt opposition to the government on November 10. Members of the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups have staged mass demonstrations against government repression since August, when the government lifted a ten-month state of emergency. Ethiopia cracked down on dissent in October 2016 after security forces clashed with Oromo protesters over a plan to annex land from the Oromia region to the capital territory of Addis Ababa. The minority Tigray ethnic community rule Ethiopia through the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party, which controls 500 of the 547 seats in parliament.[10]


[1] “Iran provided capability for missile attacks from Yemen: U.S. Air Force,” Reuters, October 13, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-emirates-airshow-us-iran/iran-provided-capability-for-missile-attacks-from-yemen-u-s-air-force-idUSKBN1DA1OZ.
[2] “Saudi-led coalition wants Yemen weapons checks strengthened before main port reopens,” Reuters, November 13, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-ports/saudi-led-coalition-wants-yemen-weapons-checks-strengthened-before-main-port-reopens-idUSKBN1DD1BT; “Yemen’s Houthis threaten to attack warships, oil tankers if ports stay closed,” Reuters, November 12, 2017, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-yemen-security/yemens-houthis-threaten-to-attack-warships-oil-tankers-if-ports-stay-closed-idUKKBN1DC0S5; “Yemeni airline says not resumed commercial flights after blockade,” Reuters, November 12, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-airlines/yemeni-airline-says-not-resumed-commercial-flights-after-blockade-idUSKBN1DC0ES; and “Yemen set to run out of fuel and vaccine in a month: UNICEF,” Reuters, November 10, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-unicef/yemen-set-to-run-out-of-fuel-and-vaccine-in-a-month-unicef-idUSKBN1DA146.
[3] “President Hadi announces new national alliance,” Saba New, November 13, 2017, http://sabanew.net/viewstory.php?id=24881; “President of the Republic announces new alliance,” President Hadi Government, November 13, 2017, https://presidenthadi-gov-ye.info/archives/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%B9-%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%85%D9%87%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9/; and “A New Yemeni alliance to strengthen the home front and end the al Houthi-Saleh coup,” Al Islah al Yemeni, November 13, 2017, http://alislah-ye.net/news_details.php?sid=872.
[4] “Battles between AQAP and Shabwani elite forces are intensifying,” Aden Lang, November 11, 2017, http://adnlng.com/news/82031/; “Armed clashes between AQAP and Shabwani elite forces in Shabwah,” Aden Tomorrow, November 10, 2017, http://adenghd.net/news/286647/; “Confrontations between Emirati-backed forces and al Qaeda,” Al Masdar, November 10, 2017, http://almasdaronline.com/article/95372; “Shabwani elite forces seize large quantity of weapons,” Aden Lang, November 12, 2017, http://adnlng.com/news/82103/; Demolinari, Twitter, November 9-10, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/928992651021467648; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 10, 2017, https://twitter.com/Dr_E_Kendall/status/928956836727975937; Demolinari, Twitter, November 12, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/929957367516557314; and AQAP kills Shabwani elite forces commander, Telegram, November 10, 2017.
[5] “U.S. airstrike killed two AQAP militants in al Ayn,” Al Masdar, November 11, 2017, http://almasdaronline.com/article/95391; “Two AQAP militants killed in drone strike,” Khabar Agency, November 11, 2017, http://www.khabaragency.net/news91544.html; Demolinari, Twitter, November 10, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/929070840636850177; Demonlinari, Twitter November 10, 2017, https://twitter.com/demolinari/status/929029415765340165; and Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 11, 2017, https://twitter.com/Dr_E_Kendall/status/929424151999385601
[6] “U.S. conducts airstrike in support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” AFRICOM, November 12, 2017, https://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/30084/u-s-conducts-airstrike-in-support-of-the-federal-government-of-somalia; and Abdi Guled, “US carries out 3 drone strikes against extremists in Somalia,” Washington Post, November 12, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/us-carries-out-3-drone-strikes-against-extremists-in-somalia/2017/11/12/06410a2a-c7ce-11e7-b506-8a10ed11ecf5_story.html?utm_term=.7ff2364fb25e
[7] Harun Maruf, “Voting Begins in Somaliland in Third Presidential Election Since 2003,” VOA, November 13, 2017, https://www.voanews.com/amp/voting-presidential-election-somaliland/4112489.html; and Megan Iacobini de Fazio, “Five things you need to know about Somaliland's vote,” Al Jazeera, November 13, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/somaliland-vote-171112093215748.html.
[8] “Plan underway to swear-in Raila Odinga ahead of Supreme Court ruling,” Standard Media, November 13, 2017, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ktnnews/video/2000143725/-plan-underway-to-swear-in-raila-odinga-ahead-of-supreme-court-ruling.
[9] Abdulaziz Osman, “US Forces Target al-Shabab Militants Outside Mogadishu,” VOA, November 11, 2017, https://www.voanews.com/amp/us-drone-strike-in-somalia-against-al-shabab-kills-several/4110762.html; “U.S. And Somali Strikes On Shabab Said To Kill Nearly 100 Militants,” Radio Shabelle, November 12, 2017, http://radioshabelle.com/u-s-somali-strikes-shabab-said-kill-nearly-100-militants/; and “Somalia Says 81 Militants Killed In Airstrikes In Southern Region,” Radio Shabelle, November 11, 2017, http://radioshabelle.com/somalia-says-81-militants-killed-airstrikes-southern-region/.
[10] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Ethiopia bans protest rallies across the country in 'national security' move,” Africa News, November 11, 2017, http://www.africanews.com/2017/11/11/ethiopia-bans-protest-rallies-across-the-country-in-national-security-move/.

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