Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 22, 2021

Yemen: Al Houthis claim to launch 14 drones in eighth Balanced Deterrence attack; al Houthi drone targets Najran airport; Saudi Arabia reinforces border with Yemen; Saudi-led coalition warns al Houthis may disrupt Red Sea trade Somalia: Al Shabaab suicide bomber kills state radio director; drought worsens in southwestern Somalia; al Shabaab IED targets market in southwestern Somalia; Somali prime minister replaces foreign minister Yemen Security Brief

The al Houthi movement claimed to launch fourteen drones at military and Aramco targets in Saudi Arabia on November 20.[i] This is the eighth attack that the al Houthis have claimed as part of the “ Balanced Deterrence” operation. The al Houthi spokesman said that the group launched four Sammad-3 drones at King Khalid airbase in Riyadh. It is unclear if this statement refers to the airbase by this name in Asir province in southern Saudi Arabia or the airport in Riyadh.

The al Houthi spokesman also claimed that the group launched one Sammad-3 drone at a military installation at Abha International Airport and Five Qasef-2k drones at military facilities in Abha, Jizan, and Najran provinces in southern Saudi Arabia. The attack also allegedly targeted Jeddah’s airport, which was incorrectly named in the statement, and Aramco facilities.[ii] Saudi Aramco did not immediately comment on the attacks. The Saudi-led coalition attacked thirteen weapons depots, air defense systems, and drone communication system sites in Sana’a, Sa’ada, and Ma’rib governorates on November 20.

The al Houthi movement launched one drone targeting Najran airport in southern Saudi Arabia on November 22.[iii] Saudi air defenses intercepted the drone. The Saudi-led coalition said the al Houthis launched the drone from Sana’a International Airport. Saudi Arabia reinforced its border with Yemen in response to the deteriorating situation in Ma’rib city, according to a Western security official on November 20.[iv] Saudi Arabia recently withdrew some of its forces from Yemen.[v]

The Saudi-led coalition warned of threats to shipping from al Houthi explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea on November 22.[vi] Somalia Security Brief Al Shabaab assassinated Radio Mogadishu Director Abdiaziz Mohamed Guled in a suicide vest attack in Boondheere district, Mogadishu on November 20.[vii] Guled had openly criticized al Shabaab.

Al Shabaab said they killed Guled in retaliation for the 2016 execution of Hassan Hanafi, a former journalist-turned al Shabaab member. Al Shabaab assassinated another journalist critical of the group, Jamal Farah Adan, on March 1, 2021, in Galmudug, central Somalia.[viii]  Starvation and lack of water have caused at least three deaths in Luuq district, Gedo region, southwestern Somalia.[ix] Luuq district commissioner Ali Kadiye Ahmed said the fatalities occurred in several rural villages and included children.

An unconfirmed number of deaths were suicides following livestock loss due to the drought.[x] UN report said about 2.3 million people are already suffering from life-threatening water, food, and pasture shortages in Somalia. The rapidly worsening drought could lead to an “extreme situation” by April 2022.[xi] Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device in a busy market in Bardale, Bay region, southwestern Somalia, on November 19.[xii] The blast killed at least seven civilians and injured at least 12 more.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble removed acting Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Abdirizak and appointed Abdisaid Muse Ali on November 20.[xiii] Ali has previously been the Chief of Staff for the Somali Federal Government. Former Foreign Minister Abdirizak said he was surprised to be replaced but had previously offered his resignation.[xiv]


[i] Yahya Sare’e, Twitter, November 20, 2021, https://twitter.com/army21ye/status/1462051474507280391?s=20. [ii] Al Jazeera, “It included an airport, a military base and oil refineries..the Houthis bombed Saudi facilities with drones, and the coalition responded with a qualitative operation,” November 21, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2021/11/21/%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%8a%d9%85%d9%86-40; and Reuters, “Yemen’s Houthis say they attacked Saudi cities, Aramco facilities,” November 20, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/yemens-houthis-say-they-attacked-saudi-cities-aramco-facilities-2021-11-20/.

[iii] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Saudi defenses destroy Houthi armed drone targeting Najran airport,” November 22, 2021, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3317651/saudi-defenses-destroy-houthi-armed-drone-targeting-najran-airport. [iv] Dion Nissenbaum and Stephen Kalin, “Yemen’s battleground shifts in favor of Iran-backed Houthis,” Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/yemens-battleground-shifts-in-favor-of-iran-backed-houthis-11637413200. [v] Liam Karr and Brian Carter, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 17, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 17, 2021, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-november-17-2021.

[vi] Al Sharq al Awsat, “Arab Coalition warns of danger to global trade south of Red Sea,” November 22, 2021, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3318046/arab-coalition-warns-danger-global-trade-south-red-sea. [vii] Radio Dalsan, “State-controlled Radio Mogadishu Director Killed in Suicide Bombing,” November 21, 2021,  https://www.radiodalsan.com/en/somali/state-controlled-radio-mogadishu-director-killed-in-suicide-bombing/. [viii] Aggrey Mutumbo, “Al Shabaab kill Somali journalist Abdiaziz Guled who criticised them on radio,” The East African, November 21, 2021, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/east-africa/somali-journalist-abdiaziz-guled-killed-3626266.

[ix] Halbeeg, “Deaths reported in Gedo as drought worsens across the country,” November 21, 2021, https://en.halbeeg.com/2021/11/21/deaths-reported-in-gedo-as-drought-worsens-across-the-country/. [x] Goobjoog, “Three die of hunger, some commit suicide as drought ravages various parts of Somalia,” November 21, 2021, https://goobjoog.com/english/three-die-of-hunger-some-commit-suicide-as-drought-ravages-various-parts-of-somalia/. [xi] United Nations, “Worsening drought affects 2.3 million people in Somalia,” November 19, 2021, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/11/1106222.

[xii] Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Seven Killed in Market Blast in Southwest Somalia,” Voice of America, November 19, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/market-blast-bardale-somalia/6320186.html. [xiii] Halbeeg, “PM axes his FM, appoints new one,” November 20, 2021, https://en.halbeeg.com/2021/11/20/pm-axes-his-fm-appoints-new-one/. [xiv] Mohamed Adan, “Sacked Somali FM says not dismissed,” Somali Dispatch, November 21, 2021, https://www.somalidispatch.com/latest-news/sacked-somali-fm-says-not-dismissed/.

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