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: U.S. Navy intercepts unflagged arms smuggling vessel in Gulf of Aden; U.S. Department of State expresses concern with human rights violations in Yemen; UN and Hadi government outline objectives for consultations in Geneva

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian and Somali regional state forces clash in Eastern Ethiopia; trial of Kenyan supreme court judge suspended; Somali police forces deploy to Marka town, Lower Shabelle region after SNA operations; Egyptian and Sudanese foreign ministers meet in Cairo to discuss Red Sea security and Nile dam

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. forces intercepted an unflagged boat transporting hundreds of small arms in the Gulf of Aden on August 28. Crewmembers of the USS Jason Dunham boarded a dhow, a small sailing vessel, and seized more than 1,000 weapons. U.S. officials are attempting to determine the origin and destination of the ship. Smugglers commonly use dhows to transport illicit goods across the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. Iran has used dhows to smuggle weapons to Somalia and the al Houthi movement in Yemen.[1]   

U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on August 29 the U.S. is very concerned by the possible violations of international law in Yemen described in the August 28 UN human rights report. Nauert stated that “there is simply no justification” for the possible war crimes outlined in the report. U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Yemen Ana Escrogima called for an investigation into Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed civilians in an August 30 interview with al Jazeera. Nauert and Escrogima emphasized the need for a political resolution to the war in their respective statements. The Saudi-led coalition criticized the UN report for misconstruing facts of the Yemen conflict in an August 29 statement.[2]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths stated the main objective of the September 6 Geneva consultations is to understand the goals of each of the parties and ensure their commitment to a framework for talks. Griffiths emphasized the need to restore legitimate government institutions during an August 29 interview with Sky News Arabia. He added that he hopes the consultations will build toward a solution to the conflict. Yemen President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Foreign Minister Khalid al Yamani emphasized that the Hadi government delegation to the consultations will focus on agreeing to confidence-building measures with the al Houthi movement. Al Yamani emphasized the release of prisoners and paying civil servants as key confidence-building measures for the Hadi government on August 30.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian forces fought Somali regional state police forces, known as “Liyu police,” in Calubfield Shilabo in Somali state, eastern Ethiopia on August 29. The Liyu police command 35,000 men. Former BBC Africa Editor Martin Plaut reported the incident, citing an anonymous source. The incident is not confirmed. Liyu police were involved in ethnic clashes between Somali and Oromo earlier this month in Somali regional state. The violence prompted a military intervention in which federal troops fought Liyu police.[4]

Kenyan authorities suspended a corruption trial against the Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Philomena Mwilu, in response to multiple challenges from Mwilu’s lawyers. The arrest of Mwilu on August 28 prompted strong public backlash, with many opposition supporters accusing President Uhuru Kenyatta of politicizing anti-corruption laws. Mwilu was one of four justices who voted to annul President Kenyatta’s August 2017 election victory. Unknown assailants assassinated one of Mwilu’s bodyguards in the lead up to the October 26, 2017 election rerun, which the opposition boycotted.[5]   

Somali police forces deployed from Mogadishu to Marka town, Lower Shabelle region on August 29 following Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) operations to secure the area from al Shabaab. Somali authorities have encouraged those who fled the clashes between al Shabaab and the SNA to return to Marka.[6]

Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukri met with Sudanese Foreign Minister Aldiridiri Mohamed Ahmed in Cairo to discuss Red Sea security and the construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River. Egypt has expressed concern about the impact of the $4 billion hydroelectric dam on its water resources, while Sudan has publicly endorsed the project. Shoukri and Director of the General Intelligence Services Abbas Kamel traveled to Addis Ababa on August 27 to discuss the dam with Ethiopian officials. Egyptian and Sudanese officials agreed to increase security cooperation in the Red Sea on August 7 during joint military talks in Cairo.[7]


[1] Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr “US Navy seizes hundreds of weapons from boat in Gulf of Aden,” CNN August 29, 2018,

[2] “Department Press Briefing,” U.S. Department of State, August 29, 2018,; “US official calls for investigation into Saudi-UAE raids in Yemen,” al Jazeera, August 30, 2018,; and U.S. Embassy Yemen, Twitter, August 30, 2018,  

[3] “UN Envoy: The return of legitimacy to institutions of Yemen is needed,” Sky News Arabia, August 29, 2018,; and “Foreign Minister 14 members of the legitimate Yemeni government to the Geneva consultations,” Aden al Ghad, August 30, 2018,

[4] Martin Plaut, Twitter, August 29, 2018,; and Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Ethiopia’s Liyu police blamed for deadly attacks in Oromia region,” Africa News, August 13, 2018.

[5] “Corruption trial of senior Kenya judge suspended,” Agence France-Presse, August 29, 2018,

[6] “Somalia Police Deployed in Recently Liberated Marka Town,” Dhacdo, August 29, 2018,

[7] Ali H., M.Abo Rezeg, “Sudan, Egypt Fms discuss Red Sea security, Ethiopian dam,” Anadolu Agency, August  29, 2018,; “Gulf of Aden Security Review - August 28, 2018,” The Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, August 28, 2018,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review - August 9, 2018,” The Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, August 9, 2018, 

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