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.{{authorBox.message}}



Yemen: Department of State staff oppose that certifying Saudi Arabia is attempting to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen; Germany approves arm sale to Saudi Arabia; Emirati-backed forces seize AQAP camp in Abyan governorate; Colombian and Nepalese mercenaries participate in offensive on al Hudaydah city; Saudi air defenses intercept al Houthi ballistic missile in Jizan region, southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates IED and ambushes SNA convoy in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; rival factions of Galmudug state security clash in Adado city, Galgudud region, central Somalia; UN appoints Nicholas Haysom Special Representative for Somalia; clan clashes kill dozens near Ethiopian border in Dac-deer district, Galmudug state; Ugandan opposition MP Bobi Wine returns to Kampala, Uganda under police escort

Yemen Security Brief

Staff members of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo objected to certifying that Saudi Arabia is taking steps to reduce civilian casualties in its operations in Yemen, according to a September 20 Wall Street Journal report. Secretary Pompeo certified to Congress on September 12 that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians resulting from military operations in Yemen. The State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) argued against the certification. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs warned that a lack of certification may impact future military sales to the region. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs was the only group that argued in favor of the certification, according to a leaked memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires the Trump administration to certify that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking steps to end the Yemen conflict and reduce harm to civilians.[1]

Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier approved the delivery of four artillery positioning systems to Saudi Arabia on September 19. A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on January 19 that Germany will stop arms sale to countries involved in the war in Yemen. Spanish Minister of Defense Margarita Robles announced on September 10 that Spain would meet with Saudi Arabia to discuss the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs after temporarily halting the sale.[2]

Hundreds of Colombian and Nepalese mercenaries financed by the United Arab Emirates participated in the offensive on al Hudaydah port city after training in Israel, according to a report from al Khaleej Online.  U.S. House Intelligence Committee sources confirmed that Palestinian commander Mohamed Dahlan, security advisor to Abu Dhabi Crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed, oversaw the program, according to the report. Emirati Brigadier General Ali al Tunaiji, the head of the Saudi-led coalition's Red Sea coast offensive, announced the formal resumption of an offensive to seize al Hudaydah city on September 17.[3]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces seized an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) camp in Mudia district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on September 19 after clashing with AQAP militants for three days in the area. Saudi-led coalition aircraft supported the offensive. AQAP militants withdrew to an unspecified area of Shabwah governorate, according to a local al Hizam commander. AQAP claimed to repel an attack from al Hizam forces in Mudia on September 17.[4]

Al Houthi forces fired a ballistic missile at Jizan city, southern Saudi Arabia, on September 19. Saudi Air Defense Forces intercepted the missile. The Saudi military claimed that al Houthi forces have fired 198 missiles at Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Somali National Army (SNA) forces near Kilometer 60 along the Afgoi-Shalembood road in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on September 20. Al Shabaab militants ambushed the SNA forces after detonating the IED. The attack killed four soldiers.[6]

Troops belonging to Galmudug state security forces clashed with each other in the outskirts of Adado city, Galgudud region, central Somalia on September 20. The clashes killed one soldier and injured two others. Galmudug security officials did not give a reason for the clashes. Galmudug security forces refused to allow some of their colleagues to enter Adado on August 13 due to disputes between state politicians.[7]

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed South African lawyer Nicholas “Fink” Haysom as the UN Special Representative for Somalia on September 12. Haysom will succeed Michael Keating on October 1. Haysom is currently the UN Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan. He previously served as chief legal and constitutional adviser to South African President Nelson Mandela and has led projects to draw up new constitutions in Iraq and Burundi. He has served with the UN in countries including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, East Timor, Sri Lanka, and Colombia.[8]

Clashes between rival clans killed at least 23 people in Dac-deer district, Galmudug state near the Ethiopian border. Ethiopian Liyu police had previously been in control of the district before they recently withdrew. Liyu police failed to consult the local communities or establish an administration before withdrawing, leading the rival clans to clash. The dates of the withdrawal and clashes are unknown. The two clans have been in conflict for several years over access to scarce water and pastures.[9]

Ugandan opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, returned to his home in Kampala, Uganda on September 20. Bobi Wine spent two weeks in the US receiving medical treatment for injuries he sustained during his detention in Ugandan prison in August. Ugandan police erected barricades and closed down roads around Entebbe airport and in opposition strongholds in Kampala prior to Wine’s arrival. Police escorted Wine to his home, where he met crowds of supporters. Wine told the crowd, “the government is determined to keep us slaves in our own country [but] I have come to continue exactly where I stopped. I am going to fight on.” Wine faces treason charges in a trial set to begin in October.[10]

[1] “Top U.S. diplomat backed continuing support for Saudi War in Yemen over objections of staff.” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2018.
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[2] “Germany approves arms sale to Saudi after Yemen war ban promise,” Reuters, September 19, 2019,; and “Germany approves Saudi arms sale despite Yemen war ban promise, Deutsche Welle, September 20, 2018,; and “Germany stops arms exports to Yemen combatants,” Al Jazeera, January 20, 2018,

[3] “Yemen: mercenaries trained in Israel lead battles of al Hudaydah,” Middle East Monitor, September 20, 2018,; and “Western mercenaries trained in Israel are fighting in al Hudaydah offensive,” Al Khaleej Online, September 19, 2019,

[4] “Several AQAP members killed by Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces,” Hour Press, September 19, 2018,

[5] “Coalition intercepts, destroys al Houthi ballistic missile targeting Jizan,” Al Arabiya, September 19, 2018,

[6] “Deadly blast kills 4 soldiers in Somalia,” Mareeg, September 20, 2018,; “Al Shabaab targets IED to Somali military vehicle in Lower A handle region,” Radio Kulmiye, September 20, 2018,; and “Two soldiers killed in landmine attack,” Goobjoog, September 20, 2018,

[7] “Galmudug state forces clash causes death,” AMISOM Media Monitoring, September 20, 2018,

[8] “Mandela’s one-time adviser deployed to Somalia,” The Sunday Times, September 19, 2018,; and “Secretary General appoints Nicholas Haysom of South Africa Special Representative, head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia,” United Nations, September 12, 2018,

[9] “Several feared dead as clan clashes flare up in Dac-deer district in Galmudug,” Goobjoog, September 20, 2018, http://goobjoog.c om/english/inter-clan-conflict-rupture-in-dhac-deer-of-galmudug-region/.

[10] Jason Burke and Alon Mwesigwa, “Uganda’s pop star politician addresses jubilant crowds on return from US,” The Guardian, September 20, 2018,; “Ugandan pop star MP Bobi Wine arrested on arrival,” Al Jazeera, September 20, 2018,; and “Heavy security deployment at Entebbe ahead of Bobi Wine return,” Daily Monitor, September 20, 2018,

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition denies attacking fishing boat near al Khawkhah port, southwestern al Hudaydah governorate; Hadi government forces repel al Houthi attack in al Bayda governorate; NGO warns that over 5 million children at risk of famine in Yemen

Horn of Africa: Hirshabelle state resumes ties with Somali Federal Government; SNA conducts operations against al Shabaab along coast in Lower Shabelle region; Jubbaland-SNA forces capture al Shabaab base in Gedo region; KDF bombs al Shabaab-held town in Middle Shabelle region; U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa temporarily closes in anticipation of large-scale demonstrations

Yemen Security Brief

A frigate attacked a fishing boat, killing 18 fishermen, near al Khawkha port, western Yemen on September 18. Saudi-led coalition spokesperson Turki al Maliki rebutted media reports that accused the coalition’s navy for the attack and claimed al Houthi forces were responsible. He also announced that the Saudi-led coalition was investigating the incident. Emirati-backed Yemeni forces seized al Khawkhah port, located in southern al Hudaydah governorate, in December 2017. The UAE uses it as a military base to support the ongoing offensive on al Hudaydah port city.[1]

Al Houthi forces attacked forces loyal to the Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi government in al Malajim district, northern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on September 19. At least 18 al Houthi and 10 Hadi government fighters died in the clashes. Hadi government forces repelled the al Houthi attack.[2]

Save the Children warned on September 18 that over five million children are at risk of famine in Yemen. The head of Save the Children Helle Thorning-Schmidt also warned that starvation may reach unprecedented levels if imports through al Hudaydah port are disrupted. The Emirati commander in charge of operations along the Red Sea coast announced the formal resumption of the offensive on al Hudaydah port city on September 18. UN humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande announced on a September 13 statement that 900,000 people are in desperate need of food assistance in al Hudaydah governorate and 25 percent of children in the governorate are malnourished.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The president of Somalia’s Hirshabelle State, Mohamed Abdi Ware, reached an agreement to restore ties with the Somali Federal Government on September 19. Ware and the presidents of Somalia’s four other federal member states suspended ties with the SFG during a summit in Kismayo on September 8. The federal member states blamed the SFG for failing to provide security and failing to equitably disburse funds among regional governments. Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire led negotiations with Ware for several days before reaching an agreement. Hirshabelle is the only member state to resume ties with the SFG. Jubbaland state president Ahmed Mohamed Islan Madobe met with members of Somalia’s Upper House of Parliament in Kismayo on September 18. Prime Minister Khaire dispatched members of the Upper House to the regional states last week to mediate the dispute. Madobe reiterated his position that the SFG is disinterested in the security of the country.[4]

The Somali National Army (SNA) cleared al Shabaab from several villages along the coastal highway between Mogadishu and Mubarak town, Lower Shabelle region in recent days. The operation began in Jazira district, southwestern Mogadishu, and continued along the coastal road towards Marka, according to an SNA spokesperson. The SNA liberated the villages of Gendershe, El aq Maki, Dhanaane, and Jilib-Marka. The SNA did not state how many al Shabaab fighters were killed or captured. Al Shabaab claimed to ambush an SNA vehicle along the same coastal highway on September 19, killing or injuring all those onboard. The attack is unconfirmed.[5]

Jubbaland Security Forces and Somali National Army (SNA) forces seized an al Shabaab base near Geedweyne, Gedo region, southern Somalia on September 17. Jubbaland-SNA forces killed 11 al Shabaab fighters and destroyed two tactical vehicles. Al Shabaab killed five Jubbaland-SNA soldiers during the fight. Jubbaland-SNA forces attacked the base after learning that al Shabaab was planning an attack against Jubbaland forces.[6]

A likely Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) airstrike targeting al Shabaab militants killed at least three children in a hospital in Sakow town, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia on September 19. The Somali government claimed that the strike killed 12 al Shabaab militants, including senior al Shabaab official Hassan Yuqub Ali. Kenyan fighter jets carried out the airstrike, according to local media. Al Shabaab claimed that a drone conducted the attack and also hit a nearby boys’ school. Al Shabaab did not mention the death of any fighters in the airstrike. The UN has previously accused the KDF of killing dozens of children in its airstrikes in southern Somalia.[7]

The United States Embassy in Ethiopia closed down in anticipation of large-scale protests in Addis Ababa on September 19. The embassy called on all those protesting to express themselves peacefully. Ethiopian federal police commissioner Jemal Zeinu denied that any protests were expected on September 19.[8]

[1] “Eighteen fishermen killed off Yemen’s Red sea coast,” Reuters, September 18, 2018,; and “Saudi-led coalition kills 18 fishermen in al Hudaydah port city,” Alkhaleej Online, September 18, 2018,

[2] “Clashes between al Houthi forces and Hadi government forces in al Bayda,” Arabi21, September 19, 2018,

[3] “Yemen: An Additional One Million Children at Risk of Famine as Food and Fuel Prices Soar,” Save the Children, September 18, 2018,; “Yemen conflict: A million more children face famine NGO warns, BBC, September 19, 2018,; and “Save the Children warns 5 million children at risk of famine in Yemen,” CNN, September 19, 2018,

[4] “Hirshabelle’s Ware drops CIC stance, pledges collaboration to Fed. Government,” Goobjoog, September 19, 2018,; “Hirshabelle leaders says reached deal with central Govt,” Garowe, September 19, 2019,; and “Jubbaland president meets senate mediation team,” AMISOM Daily Media Monitoring, September 18, 2018,

[5] “Somali Army liberates coastal locations in Mogadishu,” AMISOM Daily Media Monitoring, September 18, 2019,; and “Shabaab claims kililng 23 Somali soldiers in 2-day period, reports enemy drone hitting hospital and school,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 19, 2018, English translation available at

[6] “Somali forces kill 11 al Shabaab militants in Gedo region,” Hiraan, September 18, 2018,; “16 killed in heavy fighting in Gedo region,” Horseed Media, September 19, 2018,; and “Nearly 20 people killed as regional forces clash with al Shabaab in Gedo,” Radio Shabelle, September 18, 2018,

[7] “3 dead as Kenya’s strike hit in Sakow hospital,” Mareeg, September 19, 2018,; “Fighter jets conduct airstrike on al-Shabaab held town in Somalia,” Radio Shabelle, September 19, 2018,; “Shabaab claims kililng 23 Somali soldiers in 2-day period, reports enemy drone hitting hospital and school,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 19, 2018, English translation available at; Harun Maruf, Twitter,; and “KDF killed 6 children in Somalia, Shabaab 208: UN,” Daily Nation, June 28, 2018,

[8] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “U.S. embassy in Ethiopia defends closure over planned protests,” Africa News, September 19, 2018,

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Yemen: UN envoy to Yemen discusses confidence building measures with al Houthi leadership; reported U.S.-manufactured bombs hit civilians over course of Yemen war; Emirati commander announces resumption of offensive on al Hudaydah port city; Hadi government forces attack hometown of al Houthi leader in Sa’ada governorate

Horn of Africa: Saudi Arabia hosts Eritrean and Djiboutian presidents for reconciliation summit; al Shabaab detonates IED targeting Kenyan AMISOM forces in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and al Houthi movement leader Abdel Malik al Houthi agreed on steps to hold future peace talks, according to al Houthi spokesperson Mohamad Abdul Salam. Griffiths’ office announced he discussed confidence building measures with al Houthi leadership, members of the Sana’a-based GPC party, and the al Houthi negotiating delegation while in Sana’a on September 16 and 17.[1]

A CNN report revealed that the Saudi-led coalition used U.S.-made bombs in several airstrikes between 2015 and 2018 that hit civilians and civilian infrastructure. Yemen-based human rights group Mwatana provided CNN with the data. A separate August 2018 CNN investigation found remnants of a U.S.-made bomb at the scene of an airstrike that killed approximately 40 schoolchildren in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo certified to Congress on September 12 that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking clear actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians resulting from military operations.[2]

Emirati Brigadier General Ali al Tunaiji, the head of the Saudi-led coalition's Red Sea coast offensive, announced the formal resumption of an offensive to seize al Hudaydah city on September 17. Tunaiji stated that Yemeni forces will attempt to secure more positions along the road that connects Sana’a to al Hudaydah, located east of the city, and simultaneously advance into southern neighborhoods. Emirati-backed Yemeni forces resumed an offensive on al Hudaydah port city on September 7 after the al Houthi delegation did not attend the September 6 UN Geneva consultations.[3]

Hadi government forces advanced against al Houthi forces in Maran village in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen, according to Saudi and Emirati news reports. Maran is the hometown of al Houthi movement leader Abdel Malik al Houthi. The commander of the Hadi government’s Third Brigade Major General Abdul Karim al Sudai said that Hadi government forces made progress towards the areas of Jorf Salman, northern Maran on September 18. Al Sudai claimed that Hadi government forces kill more than 1,300 al Houthi forces in the last 10 days. Hadi government forces began assaulting the village of Maran in Sa’ada governorate from four positions on August 22.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met with Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during a reconciliation summit on September 17. The summit marks the first meeting between the Eritrean and Djiboutian leaders in years. Djibouti and Eritrea agreed to normalize relations during a regional meeting with Somali and Ethiopian foreign ministers on September 6. Djibouti severed ties with Eritrea in 2007 over a border dispute regarding the Ras Doumeira peninsula and island.[5]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Kenyan AMISOM forces near Dhobley town in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on September 16. Al Shabaab also claimed to detonate an IED targeting Kenyan AMISOM forces on the road between Dhobley and Kismayo, Lower Jubba region, on September 17. Al Shabaab claimed to kill and injure over fifteen Kenyan and Somali soldiers in the September 17 attack.[6] 

[1] “UN Envoy leaves Yemen after 3 day talks with al Houthi,” Anadolu Agency, September 18, 2018,; and “UN Envoy leaves Yemen after peace process with al Houthi,” Xinhua, September 18, 2018,

[2] “Made in America,” CNN, September 17, 2018,

[3] “Saudi-led coalition launches major operation to recapture Yemen port city,” CNN, September 18, 2018,; and “Saudi-UAE alliance launches fresh offensive on Yemen’s al Hudaydah, Al jazeera, September 18, 2018,; and “Coalition: Yemen forces renew al Hudaydah assault,” Gulf News, September 18, 2018,

[4] “Hadi government forces approach the tomb of Hussein al Houthi in Maran,” Al Arabiya, September 18, 2018,; and “At least 1000 al Houthis killed in Marran,” 26sep News, September 18, 2018,

[5] Daniel Mumbere, “Eritrea Djibouti leaders hold historic meeting in Saudi Arabia,” Africa News, September 17 2018,

[6] “Shabaab Claims Bombing Kenyan Military Vehicles in Lower Juba, Assassination Attempt on Somalia MP in Mogadishu,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 17 2018, available at

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