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 Wilayat al Bayda releases Eid al Adha propaganda; Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister criticizes UN humanitarian report; Saudi Arabian naval commander announces increased maritime threat from al Houthi-Saleh forces

Horn of Africa: Kenyan electoral commision head selects new members to administer election rerun; al Shabaab beheads Kenyans in Lamu, eastern Kenya; U.S. AFRICOM confirms airstrike in central Somalia; ISIS posts photographs of Eid al Adha celebrations

Yemen Security Brief

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda released a series of photos and a video idealizing jihadist life during Eid on September 2 and September 5. The video depicted ISIS militants praying, fighting al Houthi-Saleh forces, distributing treats to civilians, and delivering sermons. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda fights alongside local tribal militias against al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda in order to present themselves as the protectors of Yemen’s Sunni population against the Shia al Houthi movement.[1]

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir criticized a UN report that condemned Saudi-led coalition human rights abuses in the Yemen civil war on September 6. The report cited coalition airstrikes as the leading cause for overall civilian casualties, blamed al Houthi-Saleh forces for human rights transgressions, and called attention to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) sustainment in the region. Al Jubeir accused the UN Human Rights Office of bias against Saudi Arabia’s role in the conflict and condemned the Iranian-backed al Houthi movement for instigating the conflict. The UN Human Rights Office challenged the 47-member UN Human Rights Council to put pressure on the involved parties in the Yemen conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law. The report notes the partiality of the Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi government aligned National Commission, which has been tasked with investigating human rights abuses for the past two years.[2] 

Saudi Arabian Royal Navy commander General Abdullah bin Sultan al Sultan announced that the al Houthi-Saleh bloc is increasingly threatening freedom of navigation through the Bab al Mandab strait at the International Maritime Security Conference in Indonesia on September 3. Hadi government forces destroyed an al Houthi-Saleh boat suspected of carrying a team of mine-planting engineers off the coast of Midi, south of the Saudi-Yemeni border on September 2.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) head Wafula Chebukati replaced six members of the commission tasked with administering the October 17 Kenyan presidential election. Chebukati sidelined the members in response to pressure from presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) party. President Kenyatta, who won by a margin of approximately 1.4 million votes in the August election, is protesting changes to the IEBC composition.[4]

Al Shabaab militants beheaded Kenyan Christians in Hindi village, Lamu County, eastern Kenya on  September 5 and 6. Al Shabaab militants conducted similar attacks in Maleli village in Witu Division, Lamu County on August 17. Hundreds of Hindi villagers protested over their insecurity following the al Shabaab attack. Al Shabaab maintains a stronghold in Boni Forest, Lower Jubba, southern Somalia, which it uses as a launchpad to carry out attacks in neighboring Lamu County.[5]

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed U.S. forces conducted an airstrike killing three al Shabaab militants 75 km west of Mogadishu on September 6. U.S. AFRICOM conducted the airstrike in coordination with the Somali Federal Government. The U.S. increased counterterrorism operations targeting al Shabaab in 2017 after President Donald Trump delineated approval for operations to lower levels of command.[6] 

Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants posted pictures of Eid al Adha celebrations on September 1. The pictures depicted roughly a dozen armed militants praying and eating food. ISIS maintains a small presence near Qandala town, Bari region, northern Somalia.[7] 

[1] Elisabeth Kendall, September 2, 2017, Twitter,; Elisabeth Kendall, September 5, 2017,; Maher Farrukh, Twitter, September 5, 2017,; and Maher Farrukh, Twitter, September 5, 2017,
[2] “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,; Dominic Waghorn, “Saudi foreign minister rejects UN report on its involvement in Yemen war,” Sky News, September 6, 2017,; and “Don’t leave Saudi-backed commission to probe Yemen abuses, U.N. says,” Reuters, September 5, 2017,
[3] “Saudi navy commander: maritime security in Yemen is under mounting threat by al Houthis,” Aden Lang, September 3, 2017,; and Media Center of the Fifth Military Region - Yemen, “Five mine-laying experts of coup militants killed by shelling of the national army,” Facebook, September 3, 2017,
[4] “Kenya’s Odinga: No Election rerun without ‘guarantees,’ Al Jazeera, September 5, 2017,
[5] “‘Shabaab’ attackers behead 4 in Lamu,” Hiraan Online, September 6, 2017,
[6] “U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” United States Africa Command Press Release, September 06, 2017,; and “US says airstrike kills 3 al-Shabaab extremists in Somalia,” News24, September 06, 2017,
[7] ISIS posts Eid al Adha celebration photographs, Telegram, September 1, 2017.

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