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 Treasury sanctions IRGC Quds Force network for counterfeiting Yemeni riyals; Sana’a and al Bayda cities run out of clean water as a result of Saudi-led blockade; reported U.S. airstrike kills four AQAP militants in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; Hezbollah denies providing weapons to al Houthi movement

Horn of Africa: UN announces UAE may have violated arms embargo against Somalia; Somaliland declares Muse Bihi Abdi as president; China’s ambassador to Somalia pledges $2 million in humanitarian aid

Yemen Security Brief

The U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force counterfeit network for procuring advanced equipment from European companies to counterfeit hundreds of millions of Yemeni riyals on November 20. The Treasury designated Reza Heidari and three organizations associated with him for procuring secure printing equipment, and Mahmoud Seif and one organization associated with him for logistical support and procurement of weapons for the Quds Force. President Donald Trump declared the IRGC a supporter of terrorism in October.[1]

Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, and al Bayda cities ran out of clean water as a result of lack of fuel due to the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of Yemeni ports of entry, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Approximately 2.9 million people live in Sana’a. Sa’ada, al Hudaydah, and Taiz cities ran out of clean water on November 17. Lack of clean water and sanitation in urban areas could lead to a renewed spread of cholera. Two and a half million Yemenis now lack access to clean water in urban areas. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network stated famine is likely across Yemen within three or four months if ports remain closed on November 20. The Saudi-led coalition imposed the blockade on November 5 after al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 4.[2]

A reported U.S. airstrike killed four suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Yakla village, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on November 21. A reported U.S. airstrike also killed three AQAP militants in a training camp in Yakla on November 19. U.S. airstrikes hit an Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) training camp in Yakla in October and a U.S. Special Operations Forces troops raided an AQAP stronghold in Yakla in January.[3] 

Leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah party Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied providing weapons to the al Houthi movement in a televised speech on November 20. Saudi officials posited on November 5 that Iranian proxy Hezbollah played a first hand role in firing the missile from within al Houthi-Saleh territory, constituting an act of war by Lebanon.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The UN announced on November 19 that the UAE may have violated the international arms embargo against Somalia. European Union drones recorded an Emirati ship exchanging illicit cargo with Somalis off the coast of northern Somalia. The UN stated it will conduct a further investigation. The UN also charged the UAE with providing arms to Eritrea, another embargoed country, on November 12. The UAE is building military bases in Woqooyi Galbeed region, Somaliland, northern Somalia and Assab, Eritrea.[5]

The Electoral Commission of Somaliland declared Muse Bihi Abdi of the ruling Kulmiye party as president on November 21. Somaliland is internationally recognized as part of Somalia but seeks independence from the Somali Federal Government. Presidential candidates Feysal Ali Warabe and Abdirahman Irro publicly disputed the credibility of the November 13 election.[6]

Chinese Ambassador to Somalia Qin Jian announced China will contribute $2 million to UNICEF’s humanitarian response in Somalia on November 21. The Chinese government donated $1 million for development in Somalia in July.[7]

[1] “Treasury Designates Large-Scale IRGC-QF Counterfeiting Ring,” U.S. Department of Treasury, November 20, 2017,
[2] “2.5 million Yemenis now lack access to clean water: Red Cross,” Reuters, November 20, 2017,; and “Famine survey warns of thousands dying daily in Yemen if ports stay closed,” Reuters, November 21, 2017,
[3] “U.S. drone strike kills four AQAP militants in al Bayda,” Aden Tomorrow, November 21, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, November 21, 2017,
[4] “Lebanon’s Hezbollah denies sending weapons to Yemen,” Reuters, November 20, 2017,; and “Hezbollah denies providing missile fired at Saudi from Yemen,” The Washington Post, November 20, 2017,
[5] “UAE Violates UN Arm Embargo In Somalia,” Radio Shabelle, November 19, 2017,; “Eritrea's Military Got Help From U.A.E., Foreign Firms, UN Says,” Bloomberg, November 12, 2017,; and “The ambitious United Arab Emirates,” The Economist, April 8, 2017,
[6] “Somaliland Elects Muse Bihi As The New President,” Radio Shabelle, November 21, 2017,; and “Somaliland Opposition Leader Accuses Waddani Party,” Radio Shabelle, November 20, 2017,
[7] “China contributes US $2 million toward UNICEF’s humanitarian response in Somalia,” UNICEF Somalia, November 21, 2017,

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