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: Saudi Arabia states al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile may constitute Iranian act of war; ISIS conducts complex suicide attack targeting Criminal Investigations Department in Aden governorate, southern Yemen; AQAP attacks Emirati-backed forces in eastern Yemen; AQAP targets al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen; militants detonate IED targeting Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party headquarters in Aden governorate, southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: U.S. Department of State recalls non-essential staff in response to Mogadishu airport threat; former Kenyan lawmaker appeals re-run election results; al Shabaab executes four accused spies in Middle Jubba region; SFG resolves disputes with Somali states; Southwest State lawmakers file motion of no-confidence against state president

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi Arabia stated on November 6 that the al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile fired at the international airport in Riyadh on November 4 may constitute an act of war by Iran. Saudi Arabia intercepted the Borkan-2H missile over Riyadh. The Head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps condemned President Donald Trump’s accusation of Iranian involvement with the ballistic missile launch as a baseless lie on November 5. Saudi Arabia announced bounties of up to $30 million for the capture of 40 al Houthi-Saleh leaders on November 5 and implemented a temporary blockade on all Yemeni ports on November 6. The Saudi-led coalition also conducted at least 12 airstrikes in Sana’a on November 5 in response to the ballistic missile launch. Al Houthi-Saleh forces stated that the missile launch was in reprisal for a Saudi-led coalition airstrike that killed 26 civilians near a hotel and market in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on November 1. The Saudi-led coalition defended this airstrike on November 4 stating it hit a legitimate military target.[1]

The Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Aden-Abyan conducted a complex suicide attack targeting Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces in the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Khormaksar district, Aden city, southern Yemen on November 5. ISIS claimed the attack killed 69 counterterrorism troops while local sources reported 23 deaths and 30 wounded. Roughly a dozen ISIS militants stormed the CID building after militants detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) at the entrance of the building. ISIS militants then detonated suicide vests as security forces attempted to retake the building. A suicide bomber wounded the deputy director of Aden security and killed one other soldier while they were clearing the CID building on November 6. ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan last conducted an attack in Aden on January 31.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) conducted three attacks targeting Emirati-backed forces in eastern Yemen between November 2 and 5. AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a Shabwani Elite Force vehicle near al Musayniah junction, west of Ataq city, Shabwah governorate on November 2. AQAP also fired two Grad rockets at al Hamra military camp west of Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate on November 4 and assassinated the Hadramawt Security Director’s guard in al Qatan area, Mankhar district, Hadramawt governorate on November 5.[3] 

AQAP militants killed two al Houthi-Saleh troops dismantling an IED in Tayab area, Dhi Na’im district, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on November 4. AQAP aligns itself with local tribal forces in al Bayda and frames its attacks as in protection of the local Sunni population.[4]

Militants detonated an IED targeting the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party headquarters in Dar Sad district, Aden governorate, southern Yemen on November 4. The explosion caused extensive damage to the building. Militants set fire to the Islah party headquarters on October 13 after Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces arrested 11 Islah party members allegedly connected to the assassination of a Salafi imam on October 11 and 12.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Department of State recalled all non-essential diplomatic staff in Mogadishu due to a threat against the Mogadishu airport on November 4. Al Shabaab militants have attempted to detonate eight vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) near the airport since October 14. The U.S. Mission to Somalia operates from the Mogadishu airport and Nairobi, Kenya. The U.S. reportedly plans to open a permanent embassy in Mogadishu before 2018.[6] 

A former Kenyan member of parliament (MP) filed a petition to annul the October 26 re-run election to the Supreme Court on November 6. Former independent MP Harun Mwau appealed the election results because several constituencies lacked an election or a required candidate nomination process for the re-run. Opposition leader Raila Odinga stated he would not appeal the re-run election and instead called for new elections and a boycott of companies associated with either the majority party or the election.[7]

Al Shabaab militants publicly executed four men accused of spying for the Ethiopian and Somali governments in Buale, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia on November 6. Al Shabaab also exiled a suspected Djiboutian spy from the Hiraan region on October 30. Al Shabaab controls the majority of Middle Jubba and administers justice through an Islamic court system there.[8] 

The Somali Federal Government (SFG) announced a deal in which Somali states will assist in the training and supplying of the Somali National Army (SNA) for a counter-al Shabaab offensive on November 5. The SFG and Somali states convened for an eight-day conference addressing disputes about the Gulf crisis, regional security, the Somali constitution, aid distribution, and the 2020 elections. The conference also established constitutional review, aid distribution, and election committees to improve communication between the SFG and Somali states.[9]

The majority of the MPs from Somalia’s Southwest State signed a motion of no-confidence against Southwest President Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden on November 4. The MPs accused President Aden of disregarding his constituents by aligning with Saudi Arabia and the UAE without parliamentary consultation and taking numerous international trips. The SFG remains neutral in the Gulf crisis.[10]

 [1] “Coalition announces the temporary closure of all air, land, and sea ports of Yemen,” Saudi Press Agency, November 6, 2017,; Shuaib Almosawa and Thomas Erdbrink, “Saudi-led Coalition Fighting in Yemen Hints at ‘Act of War’ by Iran,” New York Times, November 6, 2017,; “Reactions to the aggression on the qualitative operation of the missile force,” Yemen Today TV, November 6, 2017,; “12 Saudi air raids on Sana’a,” Yemen Today TV, November 5, 2017,; “Kingdom announces list of 40 leaders and elements of the Houthi terrorist group; financial rewards form information leading to their arrest,” Saudi Press Agency, November 5, 2017,,; “Saudi-led coalition says strike hit a legitimate target in Yemen,” Reuters, November 4, 2017,; and “Guards chief rejects Trump ‘slander’ that Iran behind Saudi missile,” Reuters, November 5, 2017,
[2] Demolinari, Twitter, November 5, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, November 5, 2017,; “ISIS claims responsibility for suicide attack in Yemen,” CNN, November 5, 2017,; “Third suicide bombing at security department in Aden,” Al Masdar, November 5, 2017,; “Renewed clashes at security department in Aden,” Al Masdar, November 5, 2017,; “15 killed in ISIS suicide attack in Yemen’s Aden,” Al Sharq al Awsat, November 5, 2017,; and “IS claims killing nearly 50 Yemeni security forces in initial toll from suicide raid on CID building in Aden,” SITE, November 5, 2017, available by subscription at
[3] Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 4, 2017,; AQAP targets Shabwa forces with IED near al Musayniah junction, Telegram, November 4, 2017; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 4, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, November 6, 2017,; “Urgent: Aden’s security forces targeted by IED while clearing CID site,” Aden Tomorrow, November 6, 2017,; Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, November 6, 2017,; Demolinari, November 6, 2017,; AQAP assasinates Hadramawt security guard, Telegram, November 5, 2017; and AQAP fires Grad rockets at al Hamra camp, Telegram, November 4, 2017.
[4] AQAP targets al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda, Telegram, November 4, 2017.
[5] “Unknown gunmen target Islah party headquarters with IED in Aden city,” Al Masdar, November 5, 2017,; and Demolinari, Twitter, November 6, 2017,
[6] “US tells Somalia mission staffers to leave over threat,” Washington Post, November 4, 2017,
[7] “Petition filed at Kenya's Supreme Court challenging election results,” Reuters, November 6, 2017,; and John Aglionby, “Legal challenge to Kenyatta’s victory prolongs uncertainty in Kenya,” Finacial Times, November 6, 2017,
[8] Feisal Omar, “Somalia's Islamist insurgency executes four men accused of spying,” Reuters, November 6, 2017,; and “Somalia: Al Shabaab executes 4 men for spying,” Garowe Online, November 6, 2017,
[9] “Somali leaders wrap up a week-long forum in Mogadishu,” Garowe Online, November 11, 2017,
[10] “80 Southwest MPs Ink A No-Confidence Against President Sharif Hassan,” Radio Shabelle, November 4, 2017,; and “Somalia - South West State Parliament Inaugurated in Baidoa Town,” All Africa, December 8, 2015,

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