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 Houthi-Saleh forces likely responsible for attack on U.S. warship; Hadi government and allied forces seize al Buqa’ city, Sa’ada governorate; Saudi-led coalition eases blockade; President Hadi’s foreign minister expresses support for UN-proposed ceasefire; al Houthi-Saleh forces launch ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia and Ma’rib governorate; calls for southern independence grow
Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab executes three men in El Ali, Hiraan region; AMISOM mortar strike kills three civilians in Qoryooley, Lower Shabelle region; ASWJ drives Galmudug security forces from Godinlabe in Galgudud region; Puntland and Galmudug security forces continue to clash in Galkayo
Yemen Security Brief
- A U.S. investigation into the failed October 9 missile attacks on a U.S. warship in the Red Sea indicates that al Houthi-Saleh forces were likely responsible. Small skiffs tracked the USS Mason and acted as spotters for the attack, according to a U.S. official. The unnamed official also stated that al Houthi-Saleh radar may have “painted” the USS Mason before the attack. A Pentagon spokesman implied that the U.S. may retaliate against those responsible for the attack.
- Hadi government and allied forces seized al Buqa’ city in northern Sa’ada governorate on October 12. Hadi government forces last conducted operations in Sa’ada, which is a historic stronghold for the al Houthi movement, in January 2016. Militia forces from southern Yemen participated in the operation. Al Buqa’ city is one of the two main border crossings into Saudi Arabia from Sa’ada. One of the largest roadways from Saudi Arabia to Sana’a city crosses through Sa’ada governorate. Hadi government forces seek to seize territory in Sa’ada governorate to maintain proper supply lines for an impending offensive on Sana’a city. A Hadi government military officer announced plans for an offensive on Sa’ada following the seizure of positions in neighboring al Jawf governorate on October 5.
- The Saudi-led coalition relaxed its blockade on Yemen to allow victims of the coalition airstrikes in Sana’a that wounded more than 500 people on October 8 to access medical treatment. The Saudi-led coalition has imposed an air, land, and sea blockade around al Houthi-Saleh controlled territory since the beginning of hostilities. Sana’a’s health authority announced that an estimated 300 people will need treatment outside of Yemen. The civil war devastated Yemen’s infrastructure and medical facilities.
- President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s foreign minister, Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi, expressed support for a UN-proposed 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. The al Houthi-Saleh alliance agreed to the ceasefire on October 7. Officials from the Saudi-led coalition have not publicly responded to the agreement. A Saudi-led coalition spokesman previously stated that the coalition would only consider a comprehensive political solution that included the disarmament of al Houthi-Saleh forces.
- Al Houthi-Saleh forces increased ballistic missile launches targeting southern Saudi Arabia and Ma’rib governorate in Yemen. Al Houthi-Saleh forces launched ballistic missiles targeting Najran province and Samitah area, Jazan province in Saudi Arabia on October 7 and 9, injuring civilians in both locations. Saudi air defenses intercepted ballistic missiles launched by al Houthi-Saleh forces in Sabya, Jazan province and Khamis Mushait, Asir province, Saudi Arabia on October 11. Air defenses also intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by al Houthi-Saleh in Ma’rib governorate on October 11. Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for attacks on Saudi Arabia following the coalition’s October 8 strike on a funeral hall in Sana’a city.
- Leaders of the Southern Resistance, Southern Movement, and southern Yemeni tribes met with the head of the South Commission on Communication, a group that is assisting with the formation of a southern political council, to express their support for their efforts. The chairman of the commission stated that he will not settle for anything less than southern independence. The Southern Youth Union and the Youth and Student Union in Lahij called on supporters to demonstrate in Aden on October 14 in support of an independent southern Yemen. October 14 is the 53rd anniversary of South Yemen’s revolt against the British Mandate. The Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the formation of a southern political council reiterated his calls for supporters to demonstrate on October 14 as well. Hadrami Elite Forces, a militia tasked with security and counterterrorism operations in Hadramawt, continued a campaign of raising South Yemen flags above government buildings across the governorate.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Al Shabaab executed three men in El Ali town in Hiraan region on October 12, shortly after Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces left the town. The militants beheaded two men and executed another by firing squad for allegedly cooperating with the Ethiopian AMISOM forces. Al Shabaab and AMISOM forces have traded control of El Ali town since June 2016.
- An AMISOM mortar strike killed at least three civilians in Qoryooley, Lower Shabelle region on October 11. The AMISOM forces fired on the town after al Shabaab fired mortars on the AMISOM base in the region.
- Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a (ASWJ) forces drove Galmudug and Somali National Army (SNA) forces from Godinlabe near Dhusamareeb in Galgadud region on October 12. ASWJ is a Sufi Islamist paramilitary group that aligned with the Transitional Federal Government in 2010 to combat al Shabaab. The fighting between Galmudug and ASWJ forces killed at least three individuals and wounded several others. ASWJ and Galmudug forces routinely compete for control of Galmudug region.
- Puntland and Galmudug State security forces continue to clash in Galkayo town in Mudug region. The clashes began on October 7 after a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed 14 Galmudug security personnel on September 28. Galmudug officials claimed that Puntland intelligence services purposefully provided the false intelligence. Clashes have displaced hundreds of civilians and killed approximately 20 individuals thus far.