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: Russia opposes UN resolution draft condemning Iran; senior al Houthi movement official proposes a peace initiative to the UN; senior al Houthi movement official calls on anti-Saudi-led coalition factions to reconcile; Saudi-led coalition airstrike kills 15 civilians in Sa’ada governorate

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM conducts airstrike against al Shabaab in Jamaame, Lower Jubba region; Ethiopian Somali Regional State pardons 1,500 political prisoners; al Shabaab militants ambush SNA and AMISOM convoy near Afgoi, Lower Shabelle region; report warns of Somali Federal Government abuse of al Shabaab children

Yemen Security Brief

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia opposed a draft UN Security Council resolution that would condemn Iran for providing sophisticated weaponry to the al Houthi movement and expand ballistic missile sanctions that would likely target Iran on February 21. The U.S., UK, and France attached the expanded sanctions and condemnation to a resolution to renew existing UN sanctions and the mandate for an independent panel of experts on Yemen. The resolution needs to be adopted by February 26. Nebenzia asserted that the U.S. has not made a sufficient case proving that Iran supplied ballistic missiles to the al Houthi movement on January 31.[1]

Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali al Houthi proposed an initiative to end the Yemeni conflict to the UN Security Council on February 21. The initiative outlined a six-point plan that includes the establishment of a reconciliation committee, elections, international guarantees to start reconstruction, an end to foreign military intervention in Yemen, amnesty for Yemeni combatants and prisoners held by all parties in Yemen, and referendums to resolve contested issues. Al Houthi also stressed the need to lift all land, air, and sea blockades on Yemen.[2]

Al Houthi movement Supreme Political Council President Saleh al Samad called on anti–Saudi-led coalition factions to reconcile tensions stemming from late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s split from the al Houthi movement in December 2017 during a February 21 meeting. Samad hosted a meeting between al Houthi provincial governors, Sana’a-based General People’s Congress (GPC) party officials, and representatives from the al Houthi movement’s political party Ansar Allah. Al Houthi forces killed Saleh in December, causing a rift between some members of the GPC and the al Houthi movement. Samad pledged to release the remaining political prisoners detained by al Houthi forces in the wake of an al Houthi crackdown of Saleh loyalists in Sana’a within three days. Samad affirmed the al Houthi movement’s desire for peace but appealed for a recruitment drive to confront the Saudi-led coalition.[3] 

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 15 civilians in al Safra district, Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen on February 21. Reuters reported that the airstrikes targeted two cars and a truck transporting civilians and damaged the main road between Sana’a and Sa’ada. A UN panel of experts report on January 26 expressed continued concern over Saudi-led coalition airstrikes disproportionately affecting civilians.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) killed four al Shabaab militants in an airstrike near Jamaame, Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on February 21. The U.S. has conducted two airstrikes against al Shabaab targets in the Lower Jubba region this week. AFRICOM conducted an airstrike targeting al Shabaab near Jilib, killing three militants on February 19. The U.S. conducted over 30 airstrikes against al Shabaab in 2017 after President Donald Trump expanded U.S. military efforts against al Shabaab in Somalia.[5] 

The Ethiopian Somali Regional State pardoned 1,500 detainees in Jijiga, Somali region, eastern Ethiopia, citing the Ethiopian government’s efforts to promote reforms and ease tensions. Among those released were political prisoners and members of the Somali separatist group the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The Somali and Ethiopian governments declared the ONLF a terrorist group in 2015. Representatives from the Ethiopian government and the ONLF commenced peace talks earlier this month and the Ethiopian government has released thousands of prisoners since January 2018. The Ethiopian Council of Ministers declared a six-month state of emergency due to the country’s volatile security situations on February 16, one day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned.[6] 

Al Shabaab militants ambushed a Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military convoy near Afgoi district, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on February 22. The militants targeted SNA and AMISOM troops as they traveled between the Afgoi and Bal’ad districts. Al Shabaab claimed militants seized control of the targeted area along the corridor that connects both districts. Major roadways linking the capital Mogadishu to nearby cities cross through Afgoi. US-backed SNA and AMISOM operations are disrupting al Shabaab strongholds in the Lower Shabelle region.[7]

Somali authorities are illegally detaining and abusing children who are allegedly associated with al Shabaab, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The Somali Federal Government has violated a 2014 agreement with the UN, which required Somali authorities to consistently send al Shabaab children to UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) rehabilitation centers and treat child detainees separately from adults. The report warned that the Somali Federal Government’s abusive handling of al Shabaab children compounds citizens’ fear and mistrust of Somali security forces. Al Shabaab forcibly recruited thousands of children, hundreds of which have been detained by Somali authorities, over the past few years.[8]

[1] “Russia resists Western bid to condemn Iran at U.N. over Yemen arms,” Reuters, Februrary 21, 2018,
[2] “The al Houthi movement offers an initiative to the UN Security Council that includes stopping the war and electing a president and parliament,” Al Masdar, February 22, 2018,; and Mohammed Ali al Houthi’s initiative to the UN Security Council, Twitter, February 21, 2018,
[3] “President al Samad heads an expanded meeting with the leaders of the state and governorate governors,” Saba News, February 21, 2018,
[4] “At least 15 dead in air strike in northern Yemen: residents,” Reuters, February 21, 2018,
[5] “U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” United States Africa Command Press Releases, February 22, 2018,; and “US says airstrike in Somalia kills 3 al-Shabab militants,” Radio Shabelle, February 21, 2018,
[6] “Ethiopia Releases 1500 Prisoner In Jigjiga,” Radio Dalsan, February 22, 2018,; “Ethiopia's Somali state pardons 1,500 detainees,” Xinhua, February 22, 2018,; and “Ethiopia’s Somali state pardons 1,500 detainees,” February 22, 2018,
[7] “Al Shabaab launches ambush on Somali, AU troops near Afgoye,” Radio Shabelle, February 22, 2018,
[8] “‘It’s Like We’re Always in a Prison’ Abuses Against Boys Accused of National Security Offenses in Somalia,” Human Rights Watch, February 21, 2018,; “Report: Somali Authorities Abuse Children Linked to Al-Shabab,” Voice of America, February 21, 2018,; “Somalia: Detained Children Face Abuse,” Human Rights Watch, February 21, 2018,; “Detained Somali Children Face Abuse, says HRW,” Radio Shabelle, February 22, 2018,; and “Somali children abused in anti-insurgency crackdown, families say,” Reuters, February 22, 2018,

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