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: ISIS militants repel al Houthi-Saleh forces near Qifa village, al Bayda governorate; militants attack gas shipping vessel in Red Sea; President Hadi rejects revised UN peace proposal; AQAP claims 290 attacks in one year in Yemen; Hadi government and al Houthi-Saleh alliance struggle to pay government employees

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab forces occupy Tiyeglow town, Bakool region following withdrawal of Ethiopian AMISOM troops; ISIS-linked group seizes town in Puntland State; al Shabaab spokesman calls on Djibouti to withdraw forces from Somalia; ASWJ announces plans for offensive targeting al Shabaab in Jubbaland state

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack and kill 35 al Houthi-Saleh troops in Qifa village, Rada’a district, western al Bayda governorate on October 13. Pro-ISIS media claimed that militants have repelled multiple al Houthi-Saleh attacks in the same area since July 23. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed to repel an al Houthi-Saleh attack in the same city on the same day. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan stated on September 7 that AQAP and ISIS are cooperating on a “tactical level” in southern Yemen in a September 7 interview.[1]
  • Militants or pirates fired a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and small arms at a commercial vessel transporting liquefied natural gas near the Bab al Mandab Strait on October 25. Attackers approached the Galicia Spirit from the coast of Yemen on a skiff and fired an RPG that struck the ship’s poop deck. The Galicia Spirit is a Spanish-flagged tanker owned by an international oil production company. Reported pirates on two skiffs targeted a commercial vessel with small arms fire in the Red Sea on July 22. Militants launched missiles at the USS Mason, a U.S. naval destroyer, from al Houthi-Saleh-controlled territory on October 9 and 12.[2]
  • President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government rejected UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s revised peace plan on October 26. President Hadi announced that his administration would adhere to UN Security Council Resolution stated that the new proposal is “incompatible” with the resolution. President Hadi and his advisors rejected the proposal’s requirement that a consensus vice president replace President Hadi as the head of a transitional government. Russia’s ambassador to Yemen stated that his country does not recognize any legitimate authority other than President Hadi in an October 26 meeting with Vice President Ali Mohsen al Ahmar. Russia’s Charge d’Affaires for Yemen met with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the al Houthi movement against the Hadi government, on October 12 to express Russia’s readiness to assist with the Yemeni peace process.[3]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video claiming AQAP-affiliated Ansar al Sharia conducted 290 attacks in Yemen between October 1, 2015 and October 14, 2016. AQAP claimed responsibility for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), rocket attacks, ambushes, hand grenade attacks, assassinations, raids, and sniper attacks.[4]
  • The al Houthi-Saleh faction and the Hadi government are struggling to meet financial obligations in the territory that they control. Chairman of the al Houthi-Saleh Supreme Political Council Saleh al Samad proposed an amnesty plan to forgive financial institutions’ debt on October 26. Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghir publically ordered the Hadi government’s treasury to pay salaries to government employees in response to political backlash on October 25. Director of the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) Khaled Zakria claimed on October 25 that al Houthi-Saleh forces obstructed a bank transfer of state salaries from Sana’a to the CBY in Aden in an attempt to undermine the Hadi administration.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab forces occupied Tiyeglow village in Bakool region following the withdrawal of Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces from the village on October 26. Al Shabaab militants also killed two Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers who were fleeing Tiyeglow and abducted the soldiers’ families. The Ethiopian forces moved toward Hudur town, likely en route to Ethiopia. Ethiopian AMISOM forces have withdrawn from at least nine other towns and cities, primarily in the Hiiraan and Bakool regions. The forces have returned to Ethiopia to quell protests by the Oromo ethnic group that have spread throughout much of the country.[6]
  • ISIS-linked forces led by Sheikh Abdiqadir Mumin seized a town for the first time in Bari region, Puntland state on October 26. Abdiqadir Mumin is a Somali-born British cleric and former al Shabaab commander who pledged allegiance to ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in October 2015. Approximately 60 fighters entered Qandala town and met no opposition. ISIS forces in Yemen have provided resources to Mumin’s forces in Somalia, according to Puntland state’s former intelligence director. The U.S. added Mumin to its Specifically Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list on August 31.[7]
  • Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage called for Djibouti to withdraw its forces from AMISOM. Al Shabaab attacked a Djiboutian AMISOM base using a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) in Beledweyne, Hiraan region on October 25. Djiboutian forces comprise approximately 2,000 of the 22,000 troops fighting under the auspices of AMISOM.[8]
  • Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a (ASWJ), a Sufi Islamist paramilitary group, announced a planned offensive against al Shabaab forces in Jubbaland state on October 26. The ASWJ defense secretary derided the SNA and AMISOM for their inability to rid the nation of al Shabaab. ASWJ also sees the current Jubbaland Administration, which is heavily influenced by Kenya, as illegitimate. ASWJ played a crucial role in assisting AMISOM forces to drive al Shabaab from its major strongholds in 2011.[9]
[1] “IS reports on military activities against houthis in al Bayda in Naba 51,” SITE, October 25, 2016, available by subscription at; and Paul Cruickshank and Brian Dodwell, “A View from the CT Foxhole: An Interview with John Brennan, Director, CIA,” Combating Terrorism Center, September 7, 2016,
[2] Sam Chambers, “RPG fired at gas ship off Yemen,” Splash 24/7, October 26, 2016,; Sam Chambers, “Shipping warned over escalation of attacks in southern Red Sea,” October 26, 2016,; Jonathan Saul, “Gas tanker attacked near key shipping lane off Yemen,” Reuters, October 26, 2016,; and “Update - 2 Skiffs,16 Pirates, RPG's - Attack Cable Layer in Red Sea, shots fired,” ASKET, July 24, 2016,
[3] “President Hadi held a meeting of his advisers Authority,” Barakish, October 26, 2016,
[4] “AQAP claims 290 attacks in one year in video statistical report,” SITE, October 25, 2016, available by subscription at
[5] “President al Samad emphasizes the importance and benefits of a general amnesty,” al Masirah, October 26, 2016,; “Yemen’s PM orders payment of public sector salaries as putchists fail to pay,” al Masdar, October 25, 2016,; Yemen 411, Twitter, October 25, 2016,; “Central Bank of Aden Director: Houthis blocked the salaries for three months,” Aden Time, October 25, 2016,; and Demolinari, Twitter, October 25, 2016,       
[6] “Two Somali soldiers killed, kin abducted as Al-Shabaab retakes Tiyeglow,” Goobjoog News, October 26, 2016,
[7] “Pro-Islamic State militants seize first town in Somalia,” Shabelle News, October 26, 2016,; and “Suspected ISIL fighters seize town in Puntland, Somalia,” Goobjoog News, October 26, 2016,
[8] “Al Shabab calls Djiboutian troops to leave Somalia,” Shabelle News, October 26, 2016,
[9] “Ahlu Sunna says readied anti-al Shabaab offensive,” Shabelle News, October 26, 2016,  
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