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 movement leader threatens missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE; al Houthi movement begins conscription; reported U.S. airstrikes kill three AQAP militants in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; Shabwani Elite Forces arrest AQAP leader in Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen

Horn of Africa: U.S. Department of State issues travel warning before Kenyan election; UAE offers $90 million for development in Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi threatened to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE with ballistic missiles in a televised interview on September 14. He promised to attack Saudi oil tankers if the Saudi-led coalition attacks al Hudaydah port in western Yemen. Al Houthi also claimed that al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missiles are capable of reaching Abu Dhabi and Israel and stated that the al Houthi-Saleh bloc is developing air defense systems to counter American airstrikes. He stressed the need for unity against shared enemies, referencing recent tensions between the al Houthis and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash responded to al Houthi’s statement by emphasizing the importance of the coalition’s effort to counteract Iranian influence in Yemen.[1]

Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi announced that the al Houthi-Saleh faction will impose conscription during a September 14 address. Yemen abolished mandatory military service in 2001. Al Houthi-Saleh forces are responsible for more than 1,100 cases of recruitment of children, according to a UN human rights report released on September 5.[2]

Reported U.S. airstrikes killed three al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants at al Qaws junction, east of Mudiyah city in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on September 14. The Saudi-led coalition conducted multiple airstrikes in neighboring al Wade'a district on September 13. The U.S. air campaign supports coalition-backed Yemeni forces targeting AQAP strongholds in central and eastern Yemen.[3] 

Emirati-backed Shabwani Elite Forces raided the house of an AQAP leader in Habban district, Shabwah governorate on September 14. The Shabwani Elite Forces arrested the militant following a clash. Local reports identified the militant as either Basil al Mirwah or Abu Muhammad al Habbani. The Shabwani Elite Forces participated in an Emirati- and American-backed offensive to push AQAP out of Shabwah governorate in early August.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning on September 13 for citizens traveling to Kenya because of potential political violence. Kenya is holding a second presidential election on October 17. The Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the prior election results due to voting irregularities. Tensions between rival political parties are high in the lead-up to the vote. Supporters of the National Super Alliance (NASA) party rioted in Kisumu city, Kisumu county, southwestern Kenya on September 13 in response to rumors of election fraud. NASA candidate Raila Odinga is running against incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won the now-nullified August election.[5] 

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) pledged $90 million to infrastructure projects in Somalia on September 15. The pledge follows a meeting between the Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emirati Ambassador to Somalia. The UAE reportedly pressured the Somali Federal Government (SFG) to suspend diplomatic relations with Qatar in exchange for the aid. The SFG has not yet accepted the deal. The pledged aid would be a significant boost to Somalia’s infrastructure budget, which normally totals around $130 million. The UAE has increased its military presence in northern Somalia through contracts with the Somaliland and Puntland states to support its operations in Yemen and project power into the Gulf of Aden.[6]

[1] Interview with Abdul Malik al Houthi, Yemen Today Channel, September 14, 2017,; “Leader of the Revolution: Saudi oil installations are major targets and the UAE is in the range of rocket fire,” Saba News, September 14, 2017,; “Yemen’s Houthi leader says could target Saudi oil tankers if Hodeidah attacked,” Reuters, September 15, 2017,; “The leader of the revolution reveals a successful missile test,” al Masirah, September 14, 2017,;  Anwar Gargash, Twitter, September 14, 2017,; and Anwar Gargash, Twitter, September 14, 2017,
[2] “Houthi leader imposes forced recruitment on Yemenis,” Aden Tomorrow, September 15, 2017,; and “Yemen: An “entirely man-made catastrophe” - UN human rights report urges international investigation,” United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, September 5, 2017,
[3] “Three suspected al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen drone strike,” Reuters, September 15, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, September 14, 2017,; and “Three al Qaeda members killed in air strike in Yemen,” Al Khaleej Online, September 15, 2017,
[4] “A successful raid of the Shabwani Elite Forces,” Aden Lang, September 15, 2017,; “The Shaban elite forces raided the home of al Qaeda leader,” Tahdeeth, September 15, 2017;; and Demolinari, Twitter, September 14, 2017,
[5] “Kenya travel alert,” U.S. Department of State, September 13, 2017,; and “U.S. issues travel alert on Kenya over al Shabaab threat,” Radio Shabelle, September 15, 2017,; and “Americans warned about travel to Kenya,” All East Africa, September 14, 2017,  
[6] “UAE fund to contribute $89.8 million to Somalia growth,” Radio Shabelle, September 15, 2017,

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