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: Reported U.S. airstrikes kill AQAP militants in al Bayda and Shabwah governorates; Saudi-led coalition loosens blockade on al Hudaydah port and Sana’a International Airport for humanitarian aid; Iranian commander denies providing military assistance to al Houthi movement; ISIS militants assassinate two individuals in Aden; Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces raid multiple AQAP strongholds in southern and eastern Yemen

Horn of Africa: Somali PM appoints new defense minister; Kenyan government appoints new KDF Western Command head; al Shabaab attacks AMISOM forces in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; KDF forces clear six al Shabaab hideouts in Boni Forest, southeastern Kenya; UAE begins construction of military base in Somaliland, northern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

A reported U.S. airstrike killed three suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in al Qurayshiyah district, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on November 26. Some local news outlets reported that the victims were not AQAP militants. An AQAP-affiliated social media account indicated the militants were affiliated to al Qaeda, however. This is the third reported U.S. airstrike in northwestern al Bayda in 10 days. Another reported U.S. airstrike killed five suspected AQAP militants in Merkhah al Ulya district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen on November 25.[1] 

The Saudi-led coalition loosened its blockade on al Hudaydah port and Sana’a International Airport to allow humanitarian workers and aid to enter al Houthi-Saleh territory on November 25. The White House released a statement welcoming the resumption of aid shipments and reiterated its support for Saudi Arabia in the fight against Iranian aggression. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly pressed Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to ease the blockade on several occasions. The Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen’s air and sea ports on November 5 after intercepting an al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile over Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 4.[2]

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri denied that Iran provides military assistance to the al Houthi movement on November 25. Jazayeri claimed Iran only provides humanitarian aid to Yemen. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stated Iranian military officials provide advisory assistance to the al Houthi movement’s political party Ansar Allah on November 23.[3]

Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan militants assassinated two individuals in Aden governorate, southern Yemen. ISIS militants assassinated counterterrorism soldier Khaldun Madah in al Mansura district on November 27 and criminal investigations officer Hamoud Mohammed al Humaidi in Sheikh Othman district on November 25. ISIS released photos of both assassinations on its social media channels.[4]

Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces raided multiple AQAP strongholds in southern and eastern Yemen. Al Hizam Security Forces arrested several AQAP militants in Mahfad district, Abyan governorate on November 26. AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting an al Hizam vehicle in the same area likely in retaliation on November 26. Al Hizam forces also killed an AQAP commander and arrested another AQAP militant in al Waht area, Lahij governorate on November 26. Shabwani Elite Forces raided two AQAP safehouses in al Hawta city, Shibam district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen on November 24.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire appointed Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman as defense minister on November 25. Abdirahman previously served as ambassador to Turkey. The previous defense minister resigned due to internal disputes with cabinet officials on October 13. PM Khaire also fired Somali Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs Iman Abdullahi Ali on November 25 without explanation. Ali is the fifth cabinet secretary to depart the Somali Federal Government since October 13.[6]

The Kenyan government appointed Major General Charles Gituai to lead the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) Western Command on November 25. Gituai served as commander of the Eastern Africa Standby Force prior to his promotion. The government also appointed a new KDF spokesman, Colonel David Obonyo. He replaces Colonel Joseph Owuoth, whom the military replaced due to pressure from the opposition party after Owuoth confirmed documents circulated by the opposition party related to the military’s alleged participation in voter intimidation.[7]

Al Shabaab militants attacked Ugandan AMISOM forces protecting a new airstrip outside Barawe, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on November 23. AMISOM forces are finishing construction on the new airstrip to supply Barawe and provide air support in southern Somalia. Al Shabaab used Barawe as a commercial port to finance its activities before AMISOM forces recaptured the city in 2014.[8] 

KDF troops cleared six al Shabaab hideouts in the Boni Forest area, southeastern Kenya as part of Operation Linda Boni on November 27. KDF forces recovered small arms, humanitarian supplies, and bomb-making materials in the hideouts. The KDF began Operation Linda Boni in September 2015 to clear al Shabaab from the Boni Forest, from which al Shabaab launches attacks on towns in Lamu and Garissa Counties in an effort to coerce the Kenyan government to withdraw forces from Somalia. The Boni Forest is located along the Kenyan-Somali border and the Kenyan coast.[9] 

The UAE began construction of a new military base in Berbera, Somaliland, northern Somalia on November 23. The Somaliland government approved the construction and awarded the UAE a 25-year lease of the Berbera airport in April. The $90 million base will feature a naval port to support Emirati operations in Yemen. Construction is scheduled to end by June 2018. The UAE began construction on a new base near Assab, Eritrea in 2016.[10]

[1] “Yemen officials say suspected US drone kills 3 al-Qaida,” The Washington Post, November 26, 2017,; “Three killed in U.S. airstrike in al Bayda,” Aden Lang, November 27, 2017,; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 27, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, November 27, 2017,; “Three AQAP militants killed in airstrike in Shabwah,” Al Masdar, November 25, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, November 27, 2017,; Fuad Rajeh, Twitter, November 27, 2017,; “Civilians killed in U.S. airstrike,” Al Masdar, November 23, 2017,; Five youth killed by U.S. airstrike in Shabwah, Telegram, November 26, 2017; and Three AQAP militants killed by U.S. airstrike in al Bayda, Telegram, November 27, 2017.
[2] “Medical supplies, U.N. aid workers reach Yemen after blockade eased,” Reuters, November 25, 2017,; UN Logistics Cluster, Twitter, November 27, 2017,; “As Aid Arrives in Yemen, U.N. Warns It Must Not Be a ‘One-Off’,” New York Times, November 26, 2017,; “Arab Coalition: 42 permits granted for aid ships, planes to Yemen,” Al Arabiya, November 25, 2017,; “An aid ship docked at al Hudaydah port,” Aden Lang, November 27,; “Statement from the Press Secretary on the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen,” The White House, November 24, 2017,; “U.S. pressed Saudis to ease Yemen blockade: sources,” Reuters, November 22, 2017,; and “Aid agencies say Yemen blockade remains, Egeland calls it 'collective punishment,'” Reuters, November 23, 2017,
[3] “Top Commander Dismisses Reports about Iran’s Assistance to Yemen,” Tasnim News Agency, November 25, 2017,
[4] “IS photographs assassination of Yemeni criminal investigator in Aden,” SITE, November 25, 2017, available by subscription at; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 25, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, November 27, 2017,
[5] “Explosion of an IED in Abyan and the fall of wounded,” Aden Lang, November 26, 2017,; “Shabwani Elite raid AQAP homes in al Hawta,” Aden Lang, November 24, 2017,; “Yemen today: the death of an al Qaeda commander in Lahij, the martyrdom of the commander of the raid squad carrying out the operation,” 24, November 27, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, November 26, 2017,
[6] “Somalia: PM names former diplomat as new defense minister,” Garowe Online, November 25, 2017,
[7] Fred Mukinda, “Military quietly makes changes in its top ranks,” Daily Nation, November 25, 2017,
[8] Somalia: Three killed in fighting near Barawe city,” Garowe Online, November 23, 2017,
[9] “KDF destroys six al Shabaab camps in Lamu’s Boni Forest,” Radio Shabelle, November 27, 2017,
[10] “Work starts on New UAE Naval base in Somaliland,” Radio Shabelle, November 23, 2017,

View Citations
Arrow down red
Dec '17
Nov '17
Oct '17