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 King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Russian President Vladimir Putin discuss political solution to Yemen war; UN officially blacklists Saudi-led coalition; Hadi government official criticized for nepotism; AQAP militants target Emirati-backed forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; gunmen assassinate Abu Abbas commander in Taiz city, central Yemen

Horn of Africa: U.S. drops economic sanctions on Sudan; opposition party supporters riot in Kenya; U.S. envoy to Somalia resigns; al Shabaab militants assassinate intelligence official in Mogadishu; Italian authorities arrest three Somali arms smugglers in Italy

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the political climate in the Middle East in a meeting in Moscow on October 5. The Saudi King emphasised the importance of a political solution to the war in Yemen based on the GCC initiative, the Yemeni national dialogue, and UN Security Council Resolution 2216. Putin stressed the need for prompt settlements of disputes in the Middle East, as well as continuing the fight against extremism. King Salman bin Abdulaziz is the first Saudi ruler to visit Russia.[1]

The UN officially blacklisted the Saudi-led coalition on October 5 for killing and maiming 683 children and targeting 38 schools and hospitals in Yemen in 2016. The blacklist distinguishes the Saudi-led coalition from other Yemeni belligerents for taking steps to improve the protection of children. The 2016 blacklist briefly included Saudi Arabia before then UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon removed the country.[2]

Minister of Endowment and Guidance Ahmed Atiyah removed his son from office on October 5 in response to significant criticism from Yemeni activists. Atiyah appointed his son to a secretarial position on October 4 with the approval of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghir. Atiyah called for the removal of relatives appointed by other officials to government posts. Social media accounts reportedly advocated for the dismissal of a number of other Hadi government officials whom relatives appointed, including Daghir’s son as the Ministry of Legal Affairs Undersecretary.[3] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants targeted Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on October 6. Suspected AQAP militants detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) targeting a security convoy between Zinjibar and Shaqra cities, southern Abyan. AQAP also detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting al Hizam forces at Awramah junction connecting Mudiyah and Lawder districts, northern Abyan. AQAP militants detonated a VBIED targeting al Hizam forces at Awramah junction on October 5.[4]

Gunmen assassinated the Abu Abbas Brigade’s Cairo Fortress commander Ma’ath Na’man in Taiz city, Taiz governorate, southern Yemen on October 5. Abu Abbas, a Salafi-affiliated militia that works closely with the Hadi government 35th Armoured Brigade, is one of several competing militias in Taiz city.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The U.S. lifted economic sanctions against Sudan that had been in place since 1997 because of Sudan’s progress on human rights and counterterrorism issues on October 6. The U.S. Department of State stated Sudan’s unilateral ceasefire in Darfur and cessation of armed support for South Sudanese rebels exemplified significant progress on human rights. The U.S. also lifted sanctions to persuade Sudan to comply with international sanctions on North Korea. Sudan purchased air-to-ground missiles from the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation in 2013.[6]

Supporters of presidential candidate Raila Odinga looted businesses, broke water lines, and blocked major highways throughout Kenya during mass protests calling for the replacement of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) leadership on October 6. The Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the August 8 election because the IEBC announced President Uhuru Kenyatta won the vote before verifying the results, which led to calls for new IEBC leadership. Riot police broke up the demonstrations with tear gas and water cannons. Odinga plans to hold two protests a week against the IEBC and the majority party’s election reforms.[7] 

U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz resigned due to personal reasons on October 6. Ambassador Schwartz served as the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991. He first deployed to Somalia on July 27, 2016. The U.S. increased its military presence in Somalia during Schwartz’s tenure.[8]   

Al Shabaab militants assassinated a National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) official in Heliwa district, Mogadishu, Somalia on October 6. Al Shabaab has assassinated a dozen Somali officials in Mogadishu since September 17.[9]

Italian authorities arrested three Somali nationals smuggling arms to Somalia in Florence, Italy on October 6. The smugglers disassembled the weapons to disguise them as regular manufacturing parts. Puntland naval forces interdicted a boat smuggling anti-aircraft guns and small arms from Yemen to Somalia on September 23.[10]

[1] “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and President of Russia Hold Session of Official Talks 3 Moscow,” Saudi Press Agency, October 5, 2017,; “Deal of the century between Putin and Saudi King to end war in Yemen,” Aden Tomorrow, October 5, 2017,; “Russian, Saudi leaders discuss situation in Middle East,” Tass, October 5, 2017,; and Abdallah al Mouallimi, “It’s up to the rebels to end stop Yemen’s war,” New York Times, October 3, 2017,
[2] Michelle Nichols, “UN blacklists Saudi-led coalition for killing children in Yemen,” Reuters, October 5, 2017,
[3] Nadwa Dawsari, Twitter, October 4, 2017,; “The appointment and dismissal of the Minister of Endowment’s son opens the file of the appointment of relatives in the Yemeni government,” Al Masdar, October 6, 2017,; and “Minister of Endowment dismisses his secretary,” Aden Lang, October 5, 2017,
[4] AQAP targets al Hizam, Telegram, October 6, 2017; “Bomb blasts near security forces, no casualties,” Aden Tomorrow, October 6, 2017,; and “A car bomb targeting a security commander in Shaqra kills a number of soldiers,” Aden Lang, October 6, 2017,
[5] “Two gunmen assassinate a leader of the Abu Abbas Brigade south of Taiz city,” Al Masdar, October 5, 2017,
[6] Carlos Morello, “U.S. lifts sanctions on Sudan, ending two decades of embargo,” Washington Post, October 6, 2017,
[7] “Looting as Nasa's anti-IEBC demos turn ugly in Nyanza,” October 6, 2017,
[8] “US envoy to Somalia Schwartz resigns,” Radio Dalsan, October 6, 2017,
[9] “Gunmen kill Somali Government soldier in Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, October 6, 2017,
[10] “Three Somalis nabbed Italy trafficking military parts,” Radio Shabelle, October 6, 2017,

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