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: AP reports Saudi-led coalition pays AQAP to withdraw from seized territory; al Houthi and Emirati officials agree to UN-led consultations in Geneva; AQAP explains conflict with ISIS in Yemen; al Houthi forces claim to attack King Khalid Air Base in Asir region, southern Saudi Arabia; al Houthi leadership invites Canada to open an embassy in Sana’a

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian troops occupy capital of Somali regional state; al Shabaab IED targets Ethiopian AMISOM forces in Baidoa, Bay region; al Shabaab SVBIED targets restaurants in Mogadishu; al Shabaab SVBIED targets SNA checkpoint in Afgoye, Lower Shabelle region; al Shabaab claims killing 5 presidential guards in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

The UAE paid al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to withdraw from areas it controlled on multiple occasions, according to an August 6 Associated Press (AP) report. The UAE also recruited former AQAP members into forces it trains to conduct security and counterterrorism operations in southern and eastern Yemen. Emirati officials, often with mediation from local tribal leaders, have reportedly paid AQAP commanders to withdraw from parts of Hadramawt, Abyan, and Shabwah governorates since 2016. The U.S. was allegedly aware of some of these arrangements and did not conduct airstrikes on retreating AQAP militants as part of the negotiated deals. AQAP and AQAP-linked commanders are active on several fronts of the civil war against al Houthi forces and receive funds and equipment from the Saudi-led coalition, AP reported.[1]

Al Houthi and Emirati leadership expressed willingness to join UN consultations in Geneva to be held on September 6. Salim Meghles of the al Houthi political wing said on August 4 that the movement is “not opposed” to the talks but is pessimistic they will produce a positive outcome. Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al Hashimy announced on August 5 that the UAE also supported the talks. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths announced he plans to hold the first round of consultations in Geneva during an August 3 briefing to the UN Security Council.[2]

AQAP released its first official statement on the July 10 clashes with ISIS. AQAP accused ISIS of breaking an arrangement to allow each others’ militants to pass freely through their respective checkpoints in an August 4 statement. ISIS arrested AQAP members and ignored AQAP’s attempts to negotiate for their release. AQAP also criticized ISIS for not doing more to fight the al Houthi movement. AQAP also denied ISIS’s August 1 accusation that AQAP colluded with the Yemeni military to attack ISIS positions in al Bayda governorate, central Yemen.[3]

Al Houthi forces claimed to attack King Khalid Air Base near Khamis Mushait city, Asir region, southern Saudi Arabia on August 4. An al Houthi Qasif 1 kamikaze drone targeted a Saudi-led coalition warplane in the base, according to an al Houthi movement press release.[4]

The al Houthi movement invited Canada to open an embassy in Sana’a city on August 6 in response to Saudi Arabia cutting trade ties with Canada and expelling the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Canada’s foreign minister expressed concern over Saudi Arabia’s arrest of civil society and women’s rights activists, which Saudi Arabia rejected as “interference in its internal affairs.”[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian federal troops deployed to Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state, on August 3 in response to unrest. Federal troops reportedly clashed with Somali region security forces. Somali civilians attacked non-Somali residents--including Oromo, the group to which prime minister Ahmed belongs--and burned churches. At least 30 people have died in the violence. Ethiopian media suggested the purpose of the federal occupation was to remove the regional president, Mohamed Omar, popularly known as Abdi Iley. Clashes along the Somali region’s border with Oromiya region have displaced tens of thousands since 2017.[6]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel carrier carrying Ethiopian troops in Baidoa, Bay region, southern Somalia on August 6. The explosion killed five soldiers.[7]

Al Shabaab detonated a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) at a restaurant located on Makka al Mukarama road, Mogadishu on August 5. The explosion killed four civilians and injured seven others. Al Shabaab was likely targeting government officials dining at the restaurant.[8]

Al Shabaab detonated an SVBIED at a Somali National Army (SNA) checkpoint in Afgoye, Lower Shabelle region on August 5. The SNA claimed that three soldiers died in the explosion while al Shabaab claimed that the explosion killed ten soldiers.[9]

Al Shabaab claimed killing five Presidential Palace guards in Hodan district, Mogadishu on August 5. There has been no independent confirmation of the attack.[10]

[1] Maggie Michael, Trish Wilson, and Lee Keath, “Yemen: US allies spin deals with al-Qaida in war on rebels,” Associated Press, August 6, 2018,'t-defeat-al-Qaida-but-pay-it-to-go-away; Maggie Michael, “Details of deals between US-backed coalition, Yemen al-Qaida,” Associated Press, August 6, 2018,,-Yemen-al-Qaida;  “Report: Saudi-UAE coalition ‘cut deals’ with al-Qaeda in Yemen,” Al Jazeera, August 6, 2018,; and Brett Samuels, “US-backed coalition paid al Qaeda fighters to retreat in Yemen: report: The Hill, August 6, 2018,

[2] “Yemen rebels say willing to attend UN talks,” Middle East Eye, August 4, 2018,; and “UAE backs UN talks in Geneva on Yemen, sayd minister Reem al-Hashimi,” Al Arabiya, August 5, 2018,

[3] “AQAP explains position on conflict with IS in Yemen,” SITE, August 5, 2018, available by subscription at

[4] “The air forces target the airfield of King Khalid Air Base,” Saba News, August 4, 2018,

[5] “Yemen’s Houthi Leader Urges Canada to Open Embassy in Sana’a,” Tasnim News Agency, August 6, 2018,; “KSAmofaEN, Twitter, August 5, 2018,; CanadaFP, Twitter, August 3, 2018,;

[6] “Nearly 30 killed in Jigjiga as Oromo driven unrest continues in Ethiopia’s Somali region,” Horn Observer, August 5, 2018,; Harun Maruf, “Army takes control of key roads, buildings in trouble Ethiopian region,” VOA, August 5, 2018,; “Somaliland offers refuge amid crisis in Ethiopia’s Somali region,” Africa News, August 6, 2018,; and “Violence as troops deploy in Ethiopia’s Somali region,”BBC, August 4, 2018,

[7] “Deadly blast kills 5 Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia,” Mareeg, August 6, 2018,; and Live from Mogadishu, Twitter, August 6, 2018,

[8] “Somalia 4 killed in car bomb claimed by Al Shabaab,” Mareeg, August 6, 2018,; “Three dead after bomb blast in centre of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu,” Reuters, August 6, 2018,; and “Three dead after bomb blast in centre of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu,” Hiiraan, August 6, 2018,

[9] “Shabaab claims suicide bombing at SNA checkpoint in Afgoye, executing captive soldiers in Lower Juba,” SITE, August 5, 2018, available by subscription at; “Soldiers killed in al-Shabab military base attack near Mogadishu,” Hiiraan, August 6, 2018,; and “Al-Shabaab escalate attacks in Somalia in last 24 hours,” Goobjoog, August 6, 2018,

[10] “Shabaab claims suicide bombing at SNA checkpoint in Afgoye, executing captive soldiers in Lower Juba,” SITE, August 5, 2018, available by subscription at

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