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: UN Special Envoy for Yemen states his priority is to prevent military confrontation in al Hudaydah; STC threatens secession after al Houthi movement is defeated

Horn of Africa: IGAD submits a proposal for peace in South Sudan; SNA and U.S. forces kill al Shabaab commander in Arare area, Sanguni, Lower Jubba region; Eritrean-based Ethiopian rebel group Ginbot 7 announces willingness to end armed resistance; Ethiopia unblocks 246 websites and TV channels

Yemen Security Brief

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths stated that his priority in Yemen is to prevent military confrontation in al Hudaydah port city in a statement from Amman, Jordan on June 21. Griffiths added that he was “encouraged” by his meetings with al Houthi leadership and that he will be meeting with Hadi government officials soon. Griffiths also stated he planned to relaunch negotiations to resolve the civil war in the “coming weeks.”[1]

Chief of the Foreign Relations for the Transitional Political Council for the South (STC) in North America Abdulsalam Mused warned that conflict for southern independence may begin once fighting against the al Houthi movement ends.  Mused criticized Arab media and the international media for ignoring the role of southern forces in liberating al Hudaydah governorate from the al Houthi forces. He also stated that southern forces have proven themselves by effectively removing al Qaeda from parts of Yemen and continue to protect their cities and citizens. He demanded that southern Yemenis be included in negotiations citing that they are “well-armed” and “not willing to submit to a ‘one Yemen’ solution.”[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The eight East African member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development met in Addis Ababa to discuss the civil war in South Sudan on June 21. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president and rival leader Riek Machar were present. The IGAD ministers submitted a peace proposal to the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government for endorsement. South Sudanese president Kiir preemptively rejected the proposal while Machar demanded “more” time to launch a new comprehensive peace process.[3]

Somali National Army (SNA) and U.S. forces killed an al Shabaab commander in Arare area north of Sanguni, Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia according to Somali National Army Radio. The target was the al Shabaab commander for the Middle and Lower Jubba regions. Al Shabaab killed one U.S. Special Operations Forces soldier near Sanguni on June 8. The report did not specify the date of the operation.[4] 

The exiled Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7 announced on June 20 it was prepared to abandon its armed struggle and return to Ethiopia if reforms continue apace. The group said it is hopeful that there “may be” the possibility of “genuine democracy” as a result of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s political reforms. Ahmed pardoned Secretary-General of Ginbot 7 Andargachew Tsege on May 29.[5] 

The Ethiopian government unblocked 246 banned website and television Channels on June 22. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Chief of Staff announced the news on Twitter, saying “freedom of expression is a foundational right.” Ahmed has undertaken a series of political and economic reforms since taking office in April in addition to seeking to mend ties with Ethiopia’s neighbors.[6]

[1] “Statement by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen,” OSESGY, June 21, 2018,
[2] “For Yemen’s Southern Resistance, the Next Battle is for Independence,” Abdulsalam Mused, The Defense Post, June 21, 2018,
[3] “Ethiopia’s PM calls to endorse IGAD bridging proposal for peace in South Sudan,” Sudan Tribune, June 22, 2018,; “Machar’s group rejects imposition of peace agreement,” Radio Tamazuj, June 21, 2018,; “Roundup: IGAD puts forward final bridging proposal to S. Sudan’s peace process,” Xinhua, June 22, 2018,; “South Sudan peace deals attempt fails as Kiir rejects Machar,” Standard Digital, June 22, 2018,; and Paul Schemm, “Meeting of South Sudan’s warring leaders leaves many feeling dubious,” The Washington Post, June 21, 2018,
[4] Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 22, 2018,
[5] “Ethiopia’s Ginbot 7 opposition movement suspends armed resistance,” BBC, June 22, 2018,
[6] “Ethiopia unblocks more than 200 websites as reforms continue,” AP, June 22, 2018,
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Yemen: Emirati-backed forces seize complete control of al Hudaydah Airport; AQAP official vows AQAP will return more powerful than before; Yemeni government forces begin operations to clear al Houthi forces and AQAP from al Bayda governorate; AQAP detonates IED targeting Emirati-backed forces in Shabwah governorate; Iran deploys destroyer and helicopter carrier to the Gulf of Aden

Horn of Africa: Pentagon assesses that June 8 al Shabaab attack does not signal improved capabilities; al Shabaab IED strikes AMISOM personnel carrier in Balad town, Middle Shabelle region; Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hosts South Sudan peace talks

Yemen Security Brief

Emirati-backed Yemeni forces seized complete control of al Hudaydah Airport from al Houthi forces on June 20. Emirati-backed forces assaulted the airport as part of  Operation Golden Victory to seize al Hudaydah port along Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Abdul Malik al Houthi vowed to continue confronting Emirati-backed forces and that the battle for al Hudaydah will be a “swamp to destroy and overwhelm” the coalition. [1]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) senior official Khaled Batarfi discussed the current situation of AQAP, U.S. military forces, and the UAE in Yemen in an interview published on June 19. Batarfi acknowledged that AQAP is facing obstacles and lacks resources but announced that AQAP activity will return more powerful than before. Batarfi claimed that Emirati, Saudi, and American forces extorted individuals with “filthy acts” to recruit Yemenis to spy on AQAP. He also alleged that U.S. military forces were ineffective and “failed in their war” in the Arabian Peninsula. [2]

Yemeni government forces announced the start of a counterterrorism operation supported by the Saudi-led coalition to clear AQAP from al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on June 21.  The Yemeni government also announced the start of a new coalition-backed offensive to seize al Bayda from the al Houthi movement on June 20. [3]

Likely AQAP militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Shabwani Elite Forces in al Said district, Shabwah governorate, eastern Yemen. The blast killed and wounded three soldiers, according to local sources.[4]

Iran deployed a destroyer and helicopter carrier to the Gulf of Aden on June 21. Iran sent the helicopter carrier Khark and the destroyer Siblan from its 54th fleet to the region.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Pentagon assessed that recent al Shabaab attacks do not reflect new capabilities. U.S. military and counterintelligence officials stated that the June 8 attack on a joint U.S.-Somali military base was typical of al Shabaab operations. The June 8 attack killed one U.S. service member and wounded four others.[6]

A likely al Shabaab improvised explosive device (IED) struck an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel carrier transporting Burundian troops in Balad town, Middle Shabelle region near Mogadishu on June 20. No group has claimed the attack.[7]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hosted the two leaders of South Sudan’s civil war on June 20. President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar met for talks in Addis Ababa for the first time since South Sudan’s civil war re-erupted in July 2016. Ahmed has spent his two months in office reaching out to neighbors and promoting Ethiopia as a force for regional integration and stability. The U.S. Treasury urged Ugandan and Kenyan officials on June 13 to restrict South Sudanese illegal investments in the two countries.[8]

[1] “Yemen rebels vow to fight on after Hudaida airport defeat,” Al Jazeera, June 21,; Asa Fitch, “Saudi Coalition Beats Back Houthi Rebels from Hodeidah Airport,” Wall Street Journal, June 20,; and “Leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi Talks about Developments in West Coast,” Al Masirah, June 20,   
[2] “AQAP publishes interview with official regarding military situation of fighters, yemeni public perception of U.S. forces,” Site Intelligence Group, June 20, 2018,
[3] “Yemen begins a counterterrorism operation to combat AQAP in Al Bayda Governorate,” Al Dostor, June 21,; “Security operation to combat AQAP in Bayda governorate,” al Ittihad, June 21,; “National Army forces launch a large-scale military operation and liberate a number of strategic locations in Al-Bayda,” Saba News, June 20,; and “The launch of a military operation to liberate "Al-Bayda" with the participation of 5 brigades,” Sabq, June 20,     
[4] “Three were killed and injured in an AQAP trap in Shabwah governorate,” Al Mashhad, June 21,
[5] “Iran sends aircraft carrier and destroyer to the Gulf of Aden,” Arabic Russia Today, June 21,
[6] Jeff Seldin, “Al-Shabab militant group getting lucky, not stronger in Somalia,” VOA, June 20, 2018,
[7] “Large explosion targeted African Union- AMISOM personnel carrier near Balcad town, some 35km north of Mogadishu,” Mogadishu News, Twitter, June 20, 2018,; and “Massive explosion hits AU military convoy about 45km north of Mogadishu late Wednesday; reports say Burundian military convoy has been targeted,” Harun Maruf, Twitter, June 20, 2018,
[8] “IGAD leaders head to Ethiopia as Kiir, Machar meet face to face,” Africa Times, June 21, 2018,; Megan Specia, “Warring Leaders of South Sudan Meet for Peace Talks,” NY Times, June 21, 2018,; “Other leaders of IGAD member states arriving in Addis Abeba to take part in the 32nd Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD scheduled to begin today. South Sudan will be top of the agenda,” Addis Standard, Twitter, June 21, 2018,; and Mugume Davis Rwakaringi, “US official urges Uganda, Kenya to stop corrupt South Sudanese investments,” VOA, June 14, 2018,

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Yemen: Al Hudaydah governor announces plans to seize al Hudaydah port city; Associated Press reports guards sexually assault and torture detainees in Emirati prisons in southern Yemen; al Houthi forces fire ballistic missile targeting Aramco oil facility in Abha, Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Jubbaland commander alleges that Kenyan AMISOM forces are refusing to fight al Shabaab in Kismayo, Lower Jubba region; Eritrea to send delegation to Ethiopia for peace talks; car bomb injures civilians in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s al Hudaydah Governor Hassan Taher announced Emirati-backed Yemeni forces will move in two fronts to seize al Hudaydah port in a June 19 statement.  Emirati-backed forces will advance towards the main road east of the city leading to Sana’a and along the coastal al Corniche road on the southwest edge of al Hudaydah city. He warned al Hudaydah citizens to avoid these areas. Taher stated that the Emirati-backed forces aim to enter the city in the safest way possible but acknowledged the dangers of military forces clashing within the city.[1]

Detainees are tortured and sexually abused in Emirati-run prisons in southern Yemen, according to a June 20 Associated Press report. The report alleges that Yemeni guards working under the direction of Emirati officers have abused hundreds of detainees and held terror suspects without trials or charges. Prisoners passed drawings with written descriptions of the sexual assault and torture to AP reporters. A Yemeni commander expressed concern that the use of torture is driving recruitment for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).  The AP first reported on widespread abuse in Emirati-run prisons in Yemen in June 2017.U.S. officials denied they have received credible allegations of torture. The UN and Human Rights Watch have previously reported similar allegations.[2]

Al Houthi forces fired a Badr 1 ballistic missile at an Aramco oil facility in Abha, Asir region, southwestern Saudi Arabia. Aramco officials stated their facilities are functioning properly.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

A Somali military commander in Lower Jubba region accused the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) of refusing to participate in fighting against al Shabaab in Kismayo city, Lower Jubba region. The Jubbaland army commander stated that his forces would continue fighting al Shabaab in the Lower Jubba region. Kenyan forces recaptured the port city from al Shabaab in 2012.[4] 

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki announced that he will send a delegation to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for peace talks. Afwerki gave the speech at a Martyrs’ Day event in Asmara on June 20. The statement follows the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s announcement on June 5 that Ethiopia will accept the 2000 Algiers Peace Agreement between the two countries. This announcement marks the first step toward peace talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea since 1998.[5]

 A car bomb exploded at Makkah al Makarrama road, Xaaji Basto area, Mogadishu on June 20. The bomb was attached to the vehicle. The explosion injured the two civilians in the car. The bombing is the first explosion in Mogadishu in forty days. No group claimed the attack but al Shabaab is likely responsible.[6]

[1] “Secure Plan to enter the city after the liberation of the airport,” Al Ittihad, June 19, 2018,
[2] “Detainees held without charges decry Emiratis’ sexual abuses,” Maggie Michael, AP News, June 20, 2018,
[3] “Houthis say launch missile at Aramco facility in Saudi Arabia,” Reuters, June 19, 2018,
[4] “Kenya: AMISOM ignores to join war on al Shabaab,” Mareeg, June 20, 2018,
[5] Aaron Maasho, “Eritrea welcomes Ethiopia PM’s olive branch, raising hopes of breakthrough,”Reuters, June 20, 2018,; “Ertirea to Send Delegation to Ethiopia for Peace Talks,” NY Times, June 20, 2018,; “Eritrea to send delegation to Ethiopia for talks,” Al Jazeera, June 20, 2018,; Paul Schemm, “Eritrea breaks silence and responds to Ethiopia peace overtures, will send delegation,” The Washington Post, June 20, 2018,; and “Breaking: President Isaias announces Eritrea to dispatch delegation to Ethiopia,” Addis Standard, June 20, 2018,
[6] “Somalia: Car bomb injures 2 people in Mogadishu,” Mareeg, June 20, 2018,; “Explosion in Mogadishu,” Goobjoog, June 20, 2018,; and “Car bomb wounds at least two in Somali capital,” Radio Shabelle, June 20, 2018,
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