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 claim to launch 14 drones in eighth Balanced Deterrence attack; al Houthi drone targets Najran airport; Saudi Arabia reinforces border with Yemen; Saudi-led coalition warns al Houthis may disrupt Red Sea trade

Somalia: Al Shabaab suicide bomber kills state radio director; drought worsens in southwestern Somalia; al Shabaab IED targets market in southwestern Somalia; Somali prime minister replaces foreign minister

Yemen Security Brief

The al Houthi movement claimed to launch fourteen drones at military and Aramco targets in Saudi Arabia on November 20.[i] This is the eighth attack that the al Houthis have claimed as part of the “ Balanced Deterrence” operation. CorrectionA prior version of the Gulf of Aden Security Review incorrectly stated the November 20 al Houthi drone attack on Saudi Arabia targeted Jeddah’s airport. It targeted King Abdullah airbase, which is Royal Saudi Air Force infrastructure co-located with King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah. The revised paragraph also incorporates an additional statement from the al Houthi spokesman clarifying that the attempted attack targeted Patriot missile batteries at King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh.The al Houthi spokesman said that the group launched four Sammad-3 drones at Patriot missile batteries near King Khalid International Airport outside of Riyadh. The al Houthi spokesman also claimed that the group launched one Sammad-3 drone at a military installation at Abha International Airport and Five Qasef-2k drones at military facilities in Abha, Jizan, and Najran provinces in southern Saudi Arabia. The attack also targeted King Abdullah airbase and Aramco facilities in Jeddah.[ii] Saudi Aramco did not immediately comment on the attacks. The Saudi-led coalition attacked thirteen weapons depots, air defense systems, and drone communication system sites in Sana’a, Sa’ada, and Ma’rib governorates on November 20.

The al Houthi movement launched one drone targeting Najran airport in southern Saudi Arabia on November 22.[iii] Saudi air defenses intercepted the drone. The Saudi-led coalition said the al Houthis launched the drone from Sana’a International Airport.

Saudi Arabia reinforced its border with Yemen in response to the deteriorating situation in Ma’rib city, according to a Western security official on November 20.[iv] Saudi Arabia recently withdrew some of its forces from Yemen.[v]

The Saudi-led coalition warned of threats to shipping from al Houthi explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea on November 22.[vi]

Somalia Security Brief

Al Shabaab assassinated Radio Mogadishu Director Abdiaziz Mohamed Guled in a suicide vest attack in Boondheere district, Mogadishu on November 20.[vii] Guled had openly criticized al Shabaab. Al Shabaab said they killed Guled in retaliation for the 2016 execution of Hassan Hanafi, a former journalist-turned al Shabaab member. Al Shabaab assassinated another journalist critical of the group, Jamal Farah Adan, on March 1, 2021, in Galmudug, central Somalia.[viii] 

Starvation and lack of water have caused at least three deaths in Luuq district, Gedo region, southwestern Somalia.[ix] Luuq district commissioner Ali Kadiye Ahmed said the fatalities occurred in several rural villages and included children. An unconfirmed number of deaths were suicides following livestock loss due to the drought.[x] UN report said about 2.3 million people are already suffering from life-threatening water, food, and pasture shortages in Somalia. The rapidly worsening drought could lead to an “extreme situation” by April 2022.[xi]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device in a busy market in Bardale, Bay region, southwestern Somalia, on November 19.[xii] The blast killed at least seven civilians and injured at least 12 more.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble removed acting Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Abdirizak and appointed Abdisaid Muse Ali on November 20.[xiii] Ali has previously been the Chief of Staff for the Somali Federal Government. Former Foreign Minister Abdirizak said he was surprised to be replaced but had previously offered his resignation.[xiv]

[i] Yahya Sare’e, Twitter, November 20, 2021,; and Yahya Sare'e, Twitter, November 20, 2021,

[ii] Al Jazeera, “It included an airport, a military base and oil refineries..the Houthis bombed Saudi facilities with drones, and the coalition responded with a qualitative operation,” November 21, 2021,; and Reuters, “Yemen’s Houthis say they attacked Saudi cities, Aramco facilities,” November 20, 2021,

[iii] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Saudi defenses destroy Houthi armed drone targeting Najran airport,” November 22, 2021,

[iv] Dion Nissenbaum and Stephen Kalin, “Yemen’s battleground shifts in favor of Iran-backed Houthis,” Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2021,

[v] Liam Karr and Brian Carter, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 17, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 17, 2021,

[vi] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Arab Coalition warns of danger to global trade south of Red Sea,” November 22, 2021,

[vii] Radio Dalsan, “State-controlled Radio Mogadishu Director Killed in Suicide Bombing,” November 21, 2021,

[viii] Aggrey Mutumbo, “Al Shabaab kill Somali journalist Abdiaziz Guled who criticised them on radio,” The East African, November 21, 2021,

[ix] Halbeeg, “Deaths reported in Gedo as drought worsens across the country,” November 21, 2021,

[x] Goobjoog, “Three die of hunger, some commit suicide as drought ravages various parts of Somalia,” November 21, 2021,

[xi] United Nations, “Worsening drought affects 2.3 million people in Somalia,” November 19, 2021,

[xii] Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Seven Killed in Market Blast in Southwest Somalia,” Voice of America, November 19, 2021,

[xiii] Halbeeg, “PM axes his FM, appoints new one,” November 20, 2021,

[xiv] Mohamed Adan, “Sacked Somali FM says not dismissed,” Somali Dispatch, November 21, 2021,

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