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 forces arrest protestors in Sana’a city; ISIS claims attack on AQAP in al Bayda governorate; al Houthi forces detain humanitarian aid shipment in al Hudaydah port; Saudi-led coalition destroys al Houthi ballistic missile arsenal in Hajjah governorate; southern secessionist warns region will be destabilized if not included in UN-led talks

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab distributes charity near Mogadishu; AFRICOM conducts airstrike in Kunyo Barrow, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; SNA and AMISOM forces advance on al Shabaab stronghold in Buurweyn, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia; al Shabaab claims attacks on SNA and AMISOM forces in Mogadishu and Hiraan region, central Somalia; Iran emerges as the new transit point for illicit Somali charcoal; Puntland bans political gatherings

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi forces attacked and detained protesters demonstrating over the ongoing economic crisis and deteriorating living standards in Sana’a city on October 6. Al Houthi forces arrested dozens of people, including sixteen female students near Sana’a University. Female al Houthi forces attacked the protesters with electric shock batons, according to locals interviewed by Reuters. The al Houthi movement claimed the protesters were hired by the Hadi government to spread rumors and destabilize the city. The students were released at the end of the day after signing a pledge not to take part in demonstrations again. Saudi news sources claimed that al Houthi forces also killed one protester. Al Houthi Political Council member Hussein al Amlah threatened to arrest demonstrators if they protested in Sana’a on October 5.[1]

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed that its militants attacked al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Qayfa area, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on October 7. ISIS claimed it cut AQAP supply routes with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), small arms, and ambushes. ISIS and AQAP clashed for the first time in Yemen in July.[2]

Hadi government Minister of Local Administration and head of the Higher Relief Committee Abdul Sareq Fatah claimed on October 7 al Houthi forces prevented ships from unloading cargo, including food, in al Hudaydah port. Al Houthi forces detained a ship transporting 10,955 tons of diesel and 9,025 tons of petrol since September 28 and another ship carrying 5,700 tons of flour and sugar since October 3, according to Fatah. Saudi-led coalition spokesperson Turki al Maliki accused al Houthi forces on October 8 of disrupting humanitarian corridors from al Hudaydah to Sana’a. Turki announced that the coalition opened the corridors with the UN on September 23.[3]

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes destroyed an al Houthi ballistic missile arsenal in Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen, on October 8.[4]

The president of the Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) National Assembly,  General Ahmed bin Brik, stated on October 5 that there will not be stability in the Red Sea or Persian Gulf if the STC is not included in UN-led peace talks.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab held a ceremony to distribute Zakat or Islamic charity to locals in Banadir region, near Mogadishu. Al Shabaab shared photos from the event online but did not give the date of the event. Al Shabaab spokesperson Ali Mohamed Rage led the ceremony. Al Shabaab claimed to distribute between 100-200 U.S. dollars to each attendee.[6]

United States Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) conducted an airstrike in coordination with the Somali Federal Government in Kunyo Barrow, Lower Shabelle region, Somalia on October 6. The attack killed one militant.[7]

Somali National Army (SNA) forces backed by Djiboutian and Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces began advancing on an al Shabaab stronghold in Buurweyn, Middle Shabelle region, Somalia on October 9. Al Shabaab militants use the stronghold to tax vehicles travelling between Mogadishu and Hiraan region. No casualties have been reported.[8]

Al Shabaab claimed to ambush an AMISOM convoy in Huriwa district, Mogadishu on October 5. Al Shabaab claimed to kill multiple AMISOM soldiers. Al Shabaab also claimed to ambush AMISOM and SNA forces in Halgan, Hiraan province, central Somalia on October 5. Neither attack has been confirmed. [9]

Iran is the new transit point for the illicit Somali charcoal trade that supports al Shabaab, according to a new UN report. The UN report states that al Shabaab generates at least 7.5 million U.S. dollars annually from the illicit charcoal trade, which the Somali government banned in 2012. The UN report also noted that al Shabaab’s domestic revenue generation is more “regionally diversified and systematic” than that of the Somali Federal Government. Al Shabaab makes millions of dollars per year taxing vehicles at checkpoints throughout Somalia, including one checkpoint on the road between Baidoa in Bay region and Mogadishu. Al Shabaab earns $30,000 a day or $10 million annually from that checkpoint alone, according to an al Shabaab defector.[10]

The Puntland administration imposed a ban on unauthorized political gatherings on October 8. Local media claimed that the government intends to pressure independent presidential candidates who seek to unseat the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali in the January 2019 elections.[11]

[1] “Yemen’s al Houthis arrest protestors in Sana’a,” Reuters, October 6, 2018,; “Al Houthi gangs beat up young protestors in Yemeni capital,” Arab News, October 6, 2018,;“Yemen’s al Houthis arrest, beat protestors in Sana’a, one dies of stab wounds,” Al Arabiya, October 7, 2018, and “Report: The new poor’s..Harvest hatred,” Saba News, October 7, 2018

[2] “IS claims attack on AQAP fighters in Bayda,” October 7, 2018, translation available by subscription at

[3] Al Houthi forces detain 10 cargo ships, oil tankers in al Hudaydah,” Al Bawaba, October 7, 2018,; and “AL Maliki: al Houthis deliberetly hinder delivery of aid, oil to Yemen’s Sana’a,” Al Arabiya, October 8, 2018,

[4] “Saudi-led coalition destroy al Houthi ballistic missile arsenal in Hajjah,” Al Arabiya, October 8, 2018,

[5] “Bin Brik threatens to destabilize security and stability of the Red Sea and Strait of Hormuz,” Al Mashhad Alaraby, October 5, 2018,

[6] “Shabaab Claims Mortar Strike on Kenyan Base in Lamu, 8 Attacks on SNA and AMISOM Forces in 4 days in Somalia,” SITE Intelligence Group, 8 October 2018, translation available by subscription at

[7] Harun Maruf, Twitter, October 9 2018, 7:34 AM,; and “U.S. Carries Out Air Strike in Somalia, 1 Militant Killed,” Reuters, October 9 2018,

[8] Harun Maruf, Twitter, October 9 2018, 2:32 AM,

[9] “Shabaab Claims Mortar Strike on Kenyan Base in Lamu, 8 Attacks on SNA and AMISOM Forces in 4 days in Somalia,” SITE Intelligence Group, 8 October 2018, translation available by subscription at

[10] Michelle Nichols, “Iran is the new transit point for Somali charcoal in illict trade taxed by militants: UN report,” Reuters, October 9 2018,

[11] “Puntland bans political gatherings amid tensions fears,” Hiraan, 8 October 2018,

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