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Middle East – North Africa News Brief – Extended

Regional Low Intensity Conflicts. Covers December 1st to December 11th, 2017 – Current as of December 12th, 2017. This week’s report covers Yemen, Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Algeria, and Qatar.


US air assets have increased air-to-ground operations against Islamic State operatives and hubs. In the past week, US drones have carried out a series of attacks resulting in the deaths of at least a hundred individuals. The majority of these attacks have been against targets and individuals described as being affiliated with the Islamic State. Since January, 2017, the US has carried out more than 100 strikes against ground targets in Yemen.

-December 2nd, Sana’a, Sana’a Governorate

Elements from General People’s Congress (GPC) armed forces, loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, gained control over the Sanaa International Airport (SIA) after a brief clash against al Houthi affiliated forces. As part of a wide offensive, ordered by former President Saleh, the GPC forces also seized control of the Kaziz military camp in central Sana’a. As part of the offensive on the Kaziz military camp a several ranking al Houthi commanders were captured.

The wide offensive came as a result of a breakdown in diplomatic negotiations between the Saleh and al Houthi camps. GPC-affiliated media stated that the intent is to drive al Houthi out of Sana’a.

-December 3rd, Sana’a, Sana’a Governorate

Former President Saleh, the leader of GPC, announced that he would turn “a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition against the al Houthis, and publically sided with them. As part of this statement, Saleh announced the dissolution of his alliance with the al Houthis. The shift in public stand came in light of the breakdown in diplomatic ties between the GPC and the al Houthi leadership, which led to intense street fighting throughout the greater Sana’a area.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hours later provided air support to advancing GPC fighters against al Houthi positions. At least 5 airstrikes against al Houthi positions were reported in the immediately contested areas.

-December 4th, Marib highway, Sana’a Governorate

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed while traveling down the main road between Ma’rib and Sana’a. Upon arriving to the area of Sayan, part of the Sanhan district in the Sana’a governorate, the lone up armored Toyota Land Cruiser was chased by a al Houthi convoy consisting of at least 20 vehicles. When the Land Cruiser was within 7 kilometers of the relative safety of Bait el-Ahmar, Saleh’s birthplace, it was disabled by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit to its right side. Inside the vehicle was Former President Saleh, Saleh’s son Khaled, Saleh’s nephew Tarek, and 2 political affiliates. With their vehicle disabled, it was surrounded by 7 pickup trucks with al Houthi fighters inside. One of the fighters fired three rounds into the reinforced windshield. The rounds did not penetrate.

According to information provided to the Erudite Intelligence Group by known sources, a deal was proposed between the parties. Saleh and his driver, General People’s Congress’ assistant secretary Yasser al-Awadi, would exit the vehicle and be taken captive. The other 3 in the vehicle would be left free and unharmed. Upon exiting the vehicle, Saleh was executed, or shot by an al Houthi affiliated sniper. al-Awadi was executed next to the vehicle. Khaled, Saleh’s son, attempted to rush out of the vehicle but was beaten down and captured. The other 2 individuals inside the vehicle were also captured.

A video was quickly released by al Houthi affiliated media that showed the body of Saleh, with a through and through penetration gunshot wound to his head’s left side, published shortly after the attack.

Saleh was traveling towards his hometown in the Sanhan district after having negotiated safe passage under the law of tribal agreement. The al Houthi leadership had, reportedly, agreed to honor and provide safe passage to Bait el-Ahmar, where a tribal mediation between the warring parties was to be undertaken. The bodies were transported to Sana’a by the al Houthi forces, and kept at a military hospital while burial plans were devised. Local sources indicate that Saleh affiliated Tribal forces arrived minutes after the death of Saleh, but that there were no resulting clashes.

Saleh was buried in Sana’a, under tribal protection, on December 9th, 2017, in a private ceremony outside of Bait el-Ahmar. The body was released for burial by the al Houthis under the condition that no more than 20 people were in attendance. In the days leading up to the funeral, private ceremonies and family gatherings were held in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. During the primary memorial in Dubai envoys from several politicians and countries attended.

The ultimate fate of Khaled, Tarek, and General People’s Congress’ secretary-general Arif Zuka remains unknown.

-December 7th, al-Khoukha district

Forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and supported by the Saudi-led coalition captured the Red Sea port town of al-Khoukha.


For more information about the US government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, please read David Firester’s article. The announcement was met with protests and public demonstrations in several surrounding countries. A series of US State Department country-specific warnings, primarily covering Middle Eastern nations, were also released in the wake of the protests. A number of al-Qaeda affiliated groups released statements denouncing the US policy change, and called for an increase in attacks against western interests.


Shia government opposition groups continue to call for nationwide protests, but have so far failed to reach a critical mass with the majority of resulting public gatherings containing less than 15 people. Security forces made minor arrests relating to Shia opposition groups. The government is however reporting that 2017 has seen a noteworthy increase in Shia government opposition related violence.

Bahrain is quickly finding itself on the forefront of the increasingly active low intensity conflict between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Iran. Several incidents, particularly a recent surge in Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, in the past few months have been attributed to Shi’a militia organizations that allegedly have direct or indirect ties to Iran.


Egyptian security forces continued their nationwide operations against safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. At least 6 individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State have been detained in the past week.

Security forces continue their operations against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and associated organizations, throughout the country. In the past week several raids have been conducted against believed safe houses and individuals with alleged MB affiliations. According to reports, the raids resulted in at least 2 individuals having been detained.

Security operations continue along the Egyptian-Libyan border area with the Egyptian Air Force striking Salafist-Jihadist group convoys crossing from Libya to Egypt. The border land, on the Libyan side, has become a haven for emerging new militia groups, including the al Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Islam.

-December 2nd, Cairo

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with Egyptian officials to further discuss military cooperation between the 2 countries. The visit is part of a week long tour of allies in the region, including Jordan, Pakistan and Kuwait.

-December 4th, 10th Ramadan City, Sharqia Governorate

5 individuals with alleged ties to an unspecified militant movement were killed by security forces during a raid against an apartment building. According to a statement made by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MoI), several arms, ammunition, and ready-made Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were discovered on the scene.

The raid resulted in follow up raids in Cairo and Asyut Provinces. These raids resulted in the arrest of 6 individuals that the MoI says have ties to a militant Salafist organization. The raids also uncovered a small stock of arms and ammunition.


Security forces have continued a nationwide crackdown on safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. Several raids were carried out this past week, resulting in at least 126 individuals believed to have Islamic State affiliations having been detained, the majority of which have been described as foreigners.

Security forces also continued their long-standing nationwide crackdown on safe houses and on individuals believed to be affiliated with the Kurdish political and/or militant opposition. Several raids were carried out this past week, resulting in at least 9 arrests.

-December 7th, Ankara

The trial against Kurdish opposition party leader Selahattin Demirtas began. Demirtas stands accused of multiple counts of terrorism, and if sentenced, could face up to 142 years in jail. The case is drawing growing international criticism, and is widely seen as part of a political witch hunt.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

Security forces continue their operations to counter the rising militant insurgency throughout the Kingdom. In the past week several raids have been conducted against believed safe houses and individuals with alleged militant affiliations. According to reports, the raids resulted in at least 2 individuals having been detained.

The Shi’a al Houthi militia in Yemen continue to send ballistic missiles aimed at population centers in Saudi Arabia. The majority of incoming missiles are reportedly shot down by the Saudi surface-to-air system (SAM), operated by the Royal Saudi Air Defense forces, which consists primarily of a series of US provided MIM-104 Patriot systems. The al Houthi tend to utilize variations of Soviet-era designed ballistic missile systems. One such example is the Qaher-1 missile, which is an improved variation of the Soviet SA-2 short to medium range ballistic missile design. There were no casualties reported due to al Houthi missile strikes this week.

The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced on December 10th that 6 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) were discovered between November 29th and December 9th.

-December 4th, Riyadh

Saudi Arabia pledged an additional $100 million to support the creation of a new regional military force battling Salafist-Jihadist groups in West Africa’s Sahel region. The military force is to be an extension, and continuation, of efforts made under the so called G5 Sahel task force. The G5 Sahel is composed of the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. Its initial military operations began in October, 2017, in response to the growing jihadist militant threat in the Sahel. Islamic extremist militant groups operating in the region include affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State.

-December 10th, Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has officially declared that the ban on public cinemas will be lifted as of the end of 2017. Public cinemas have been banned from Saudi Arabia for over 30 years. The end of the ban comes in light of promises made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Future Investment Initiative conference held in Riyadh in October.

Somalia and Somaliland

US air assets have increased air-to-ground operations against the Islamic State, and affiliated organization operatives and hubs. In the past week, US drones under the control of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) have carried out at least 1 attack, which targeted over 100 Shabaab affiliated individuals. AFRICOM has carried out more than 12 strikes in Somalia targeting al-Shaabab and Islamic State fighters since it initiated its new, intensified, strategy on November 3rd. Since the intensified strategy was deployed, US air assets have carried out at least 16 attacks, resulting in an estimated 140 deaths. The latest known strike was against the so called “Raso Camp” in the Bulobarde province, roughly 100 miles north of Mogadishu and was coordinated with the central Somali government.

The number of US military forces in Somalia has more than doubled during 2017 to over 500 people, this according to a recently released Pentagon report. The majority of men deployed are described as special operations personnel on a mission to advise local forces in the US-supported fight against Islamic militants throughout Somalia. The men largely fall under the command of AFRICOM. The total contingent of US military personnel in Somalia is now the largest it has been since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident, where 18 US soldiers died.


-December 7th, Algiers

Customs seized portions of a cargo of a ship in port after it was discovered that the cargo included 3 containers loaded with Israeli made clothes, set to be imported into Algeria through a Chinese company. The clothing is described as primarily being for children, but did also include clothing for adults of both genders. All confiscated garments had the writing “Made in Israel” written on a label on the inside. Local authorities will now investigate if an attempt to skirt Algerian import restrictions on Israeli made goods were purposefully carried out, or if the incident was accidental. For the time being, the local importer has been issued an 11 billion dinar ($100 million US Dollars) fine by the authorities.


-December 10th, Doha

Qatar signed a major weapons deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom. The deal is valued at $8 billion US Dollars. Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, signed the deal amid a ongoing political stand-off with former Arab allies of the Persian Gulf region. The deal can be viewed in light of the recently released the 2017 US sales of arms numbers from the US Congressional Research group. The report specifies that US defense companies sold $41.93 billion worth of weapons to foreign partners and allies in fiscal 2017. This equals an increase of over 19% over 2016 figures.


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