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: U.S. Vice Admiral says Iran continues to smuggle weapons to al Houthi-Saleh forces; U.S. Ambassador to the UN meets with President Hadi; Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces raid AQAP safehouses in Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen; suspected AQAP militants detonate IED targeting Hadramawt special forces commander

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab releases video praising Osama bin Laden; Kenya’s voting system may not be ready for October 17 election; embassies in Kenya issue warning about Kenyan instability; Oromia and Somali governors withdraw security forces to ease regional tensions

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Vice Admiral and commander of the Fifth Fleet Kevin M. Donegan stated that Iran continues to support the al Houthi-Saleh bloc with weapons and sophisticated technology in an interview with the New York Times on September 18. Donegan pointed to the al Houthi-Saleh movement's growing arsenal of surface-to-ship missiles, ballistic missiles, sea mines, and remote-controlled explosive boats as indicators of Iranian weapon smuggling into Yemen. Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi claimed on September 14 that al Houthi-Saleh 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.[1]

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley met with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in New York on September 18 ahead of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly to discuss Iranian and Salafi-jihadi threats in Yemen. President Donald Trump is expected to call for greater action against Iranian influence in the region during his first UN General Assembly address on September 19.[2]

Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces are reestablishing security in northern Abyan governorate, southern Yemen. Al Hizam forces raided AQAP safe houses and arrested a number of militants in Mudiyah district on September 19. Al Hizam forces also killed local AQAP commander Mohammed Saleh al Awsiji in Lawder district, west of Mudiyah on September 18. Al Hizam forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, raided an AQAP stronghold in al Wade’a district, between Mudiyah and Lawder, on September 13. Al Hizam forces discovered the body of AQAP leader al Khader Ali Ahmed Basari in Wade’a on September 18, whom al Hizam forces believe they killed during the September 13 raid.[3] 

Suspected AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting the vehicle of Hadramawt Special Forces commander Sabri al Tamimi in Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen on September 19. Tamimi survived the attack. AQAP occupied al Mukalla for a year until an Emirati-backed campaign ousted AQAP from the city in April 2016.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab released a nasheed praising former al Qaeda emir Osama Bin Laden and condemning western involvement throughout the Muslim world on September 19. The video features al Shabaab militants seated in a half circle singing a nasheed, an Islamic chant, and finished with videos of Osama bin Laden voiced over by deceased al Qaeda founding member Abdullah Azzam. Al Shabaab also stated their intent to free al Qaeda-linked prisoners during the chant.[5]  

OT-Morpho, the firm providing Kenya’s election system, announced the voting equipment may not be reinstalled in time for the October 17 Kenyan presidential election on September 18. National Super Alliance (NASA) party presidential candidate Raila Odinga stated a delay in the re-run election could resolve concerns about the election’s validity. NASA party leaders called for the replacement of the previous election’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials to ensure a credible election.[6] 

The embassies of 14 countries, including the U.S. and U.K., based in Kenya issued warnings about fake news, malicious rhetoric, and ethnic-profiling undermining Kenya’s democratic institutions on September 19. MPs of the majority Jubilee party filed articles of impeachment for Kenyan Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga and President Uhuru Kenyatta threatened to impeach rival presidential candidate Raila Odinga if he wins the re-run election. A fake news story about individuals buying National Identification Cards at a hotel in Kisumu city to rig the re-run election caused opposition party National Super Alliance (NASA) supporters to riot on September 13.[7]   

The governors of the Oromia and Somali states in Ethiopia withdrew security forces from conflict areas and Ethiopian Federal forces moved into the region to restore peace on September 18. Over thirty thousand members of the ethnic Somali and Oromos communities fled Ethiopia’s Somali region because of clashes over territorial and resource disputes with the adjacent Oromia region.[8]

[1] Eric Schmitt, “Iran Is Smuggling Increasingly Potent Weapons Into Yemen, U.S. Admiral Says,” The New York Times, September 18, 2017,
[2] “The President of the Republic receives the representative of the United States to the United Nations,” Saba New, September 18, 2017,; and Margaret Talev and Ladane Nasseri, “Trump Will Call for Action on North Korea, Iran in First UN Address,” Bloomberg, September 19, 2017,
[3] “Senior Al Qaeda operative killed in Abyan,” Aden Lang, September 18, 2017,; “Body of a leading al Qaeda leader was found days after he was killed,” Aden Lang, September 17, 2017,; and “Security forces carry out a raid in Mudiyah and arrest a number of wanted men,” Aden Tomorrow, September 19, 2017,
[4] “Vehicle of Mukalla special forces targeted with IED,” Aden Land, September 19, 2017,; Demolinari, Twitter, September 19, 2017,
[5] “Al Shabaab releases new nasheed,” Telegram, September 19, 2017.
[6] “Kenya election: System ‘cannot be ready’ for October poll,” BBC, September 18, 2017,; and Felix Njini, “Kenyan opposition says rerun delay may resolve vote concerns,” Bloomberg, September 13, 2017,
[7] Eric Ombok, “‘Fake News’ in Kenya’s Election Undermines Rule of Law, Embassies Say,” Bloomberg Politics, September 19 2017,; and “Riots in Kenya after rumour about alleged efforts to rig upcoming election,” Toronto Star, September 13, 2017,
[8] “Somali and Oromia leaders cooperate to resolve conflict,” Radio Shabelle, September 18, 2017,; and “What is behind clashes in Ethiopia’s Somali and Oromia regions,” BBC News, September 18, 2017,  

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