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: Al Houthi forces claim to strike Dubai International Airport with drone; UN report states all parties in Yemen violate international humanitarian law and may be responsible for war crimes; U.S. Department of Defense warns Saudi Arabia that it is prepared to reduce military and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition; al Houthi forces fire ballistic missile at Najran city, southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Ethiopia arrests former president of Somali regional state; Ethiopia cancels Nile dam contract with state-run firm; Deputy Chief Justice of Kenyan Supreme Court detained in Nairobi; AMISOM hands over Somali national stadium to Somali government; al Shabaab ambushes SNA convoy in Marka, Lower Shabelle region; likely al Shabaab IED kills two SNA soldiers in Hodan district, Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

Al Houthi forces claimed to attack Dubai International Airport with a drone on August 27. Emirati officials denied that the attack occurred. Al Houthi media did not provide photographic evidence of the attack beyond pictures of flights being delayed around the time of the claimed attack. Iranian state-run Fars News Agency warned that the UAE is no longer safe for economic investment now that al Houthi forces have the capability to reach the UAE with armed drones on August 28. The Fars article also warned of continued al Houthi drone attacks on Emirati cities. Al Houthi forces also claimed to attack Abu Dhabi International Airport with a drone on July 26, which Emirati officials also denied.[1]

A UN report stated that all parties of the Yemen conflict have committed a large number of violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may be amount to war crimes. The UN’s Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen stated that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes are the leading cause of civilian casualties and that some of the airstrikes may amount to war crimes. Coalition airstrikes have hit markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats, and medical facilities. The coalition’s no-strike list was not properly shared within the chain of command of the coalition, according to the report. Al Houthi forces indiscriminately used weapons with a wide area of effect in urban settings, a potential war crime. The UN investigation found widespread use of arbitrary detention and use of torture by all parties. The UN team also stated Emirati and Emirati-backed forces used sexual violence on detainees, echoing reports from human rights groups and the Associated Press.[2]

U.S. Department of Defense officials warned Saudi officials that the U.S. is prepared to reduce military and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen if the coalition fails to demonstrate it is attempting to limit civilian deaths from its bombing campaign. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Commander of U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel are concerned that American forces are supporting a campaign that has killed a high number of civilians, according to an August 27 CNN report. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed 40 children in northern Yemen on August 9 and 20 children in western Yemen on August 23.[3]

Al Houthi forces fired a Badr 1 ballistic missile at Najran city, southern Saudi Arabia on August 28. Saudi air defenses intercepted the missile, according to a Saudi state-run news report. Al Houthi media claimed the missile hit a Saudi military camp.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian police arrested the former president of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state, Mohamed Omar “Abdi Iley,” at his villa in Addis Ababa on August 27. Abdi Iley resigned from his position on August 6 after the Ethiopian government launched a federal military intervention to quell unrest in the state. The Ethiopian government and international human rights organizations have accused Abdi Iley of widespread human rights abuses. Abdi Iley served as regional president for nearly 15 years and was an outspoken supporter of the previous Ethiopian government.[5]

The Ethiopian government canceled its contract with the state-run Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) for the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on August 25 that numerous delays in the construction process had prompted the Ethiopian government to cancel the contract. The Ethiopian military is the primary shareholder in METEC. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and Director of the General Intelligence Services Abbas Kamel traveled to Addis Ababa to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Ethiopian officials on August 27. The construction of the upstream nile dam, which Egypt fears will hurt its economy, has increased regional tensions in recent years.[6]

Kenyan police arrested Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Philomena Mwilu on corruption charges in Nairobi on August 28. The Supreme Court annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory over irregularities last September. Kenyatta went on to win the new elections in October 2017, with the opposition boycotting. President Kenyatta recently launched an anti-corruption campaign, which some opposition figures claim is politically motivated. President Kenyatta met with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. on August 27 to discuss trade and security issues.[7]

The Ugandan contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) officially handed over authority of the Somali National Stadium in Mogadishu to the Somali government on August 28. The ceremony was part of AMISOM’s transition plan to support the Somali Federal Government to develop local governance. President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” attended the ceremony and thanked the UPDF for their “sacrifice and patriotism.” Ugandan AMISOM forces liberated the stadium from al-Shabaab forces on September 6, 2011 and have used the stadium as a base ever since.[8]

Heavily armed al Shabaab militants ambushed a Somali National Army (SNA) convoy in Marka city, Lower Shabelle region on August 28. The convoy was carrying supplies from Mogadishu to SNA bases in Marka. No casualties have been reported.[9] Likely al Shabaab militants detonated an IED targeting SNA forces at Baraka junction in Hodan district, Mogadishu on August 27. The explosion killed at least two SNA soldiers.[10]

[1] “Dubai is no longer safe,” Fars News Agency, August 28, 2018,; “UAE denies report of Houthi drone attack on Dubai airport,” Reuters, August 27, 2018,; and “Confusion of traffic at Dubai International Airport after the strike from Samad 3,” al Masirah, August 27, 2018,    

[2] “Situation of human rights in Yemen, including violations and abuses since September 2014,” OHCHR, August 28, 2017,

[3] Barbara Starr, “US warns Saudi Arabia it may withdraw support over civilian casualties in Yemen,” CNN, August 27, 2018,

[4] “Badr 1 ballistic missile hits a Saudi camp in Najran,” Al Masirah, August 28, 2018,; and “Saudi Arabia says ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Houthis intercepted,” Reuters, August 28, 2018,  

[5] “Ethiopian Somali region ex-president Abdi Mohammed Omar arrested after prisoners intimidated by lions, hyenas,” Deutsche Welle, August 28, 2018,; Ethiopia police arrest ex-Somali region president Abdi Iley,” Africa News, August 27, 2018,; and Tamiru Tsige, “Abdi Iley et al arrested,” The Reporter Ethiopia, August 27, 2018,

[6] “Ethiopia ousts state firm from Nile Dam project,” Voice of America, August 27, 2018,; “Ethiopia terminates contract of state firm over Nile dam project delays,” Africa News, August 27, 2018,; and “A “message” from Sisi to Ethiopia on the Renaissance dam,” Assabah News, August 26, 2018, 2018,

[7] “Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu arrested over alleged graft,” The Standard, August 28, 2018,; “Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice arrested,” Africa News, August 28, 2018,; “Drama at Supreme Court over arrest of lawyer and top judge,” Daily Nation, August 28, 2018,; and “Uhuru wraps up US visit, says Africa is open to fair trade,” Capital FM, August 28, 2018,

[8] “AMISOM hands over Somalia National Stadium,” Radio Shabelle, August 28, 2018,;

[9] “Al-Shabaab launches ambush attack on military convoy near Mogadishu,” Radio Shabelle, August 28, 2018,

[10] “Two soldiers killed in blast in Somalia’s Mogadishu,” Xinhua, August 27, 2018,

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