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: The UAE pauses offensive on al Hudaydah port to give UN more time for negotiations; Belgian court suspends arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia; AQAP affiliates execute al Houthi captive

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab mortar attack targets Independence Day ceremony in northeastern Mogadishu; SNA kills 15 al Shabaab militants in Kismayo, Lower Shabelle region; Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers removes three rebel groups from terror list

Yemen Security Brief

The UAE is delaying the offensive on al Hudaydah port city to give the UN more time to negotiate an al Houthi withdrawal. The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stated that a week-long pause in fighting began on June 23 but will be extended for an unspecified time. Gargash also stated that al Houthi forces must unconditionally withdraw from al Hudaydah. Al Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam denied that the UAE paused operations and claimed that Emirati officials are trying to “deceive public opinion” on July 2. The Yemeni parliament strongly opposed the Emirati decision to halt the al Hudaydah offensive, calling it a "futile strategy of war" and a disregard for "the sacrifices of martyrs." Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi ordered four brigades of Presidential Protection Forces to join Emirati-backed forces on the western coast. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived to Sana’a City to meet with al Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi to continue negotiations over al Hudaydah port on July 2.[1]

The Belgian Supreme Administrative Court suspended arms licenses to Saudi Arabia on June 30. The court cited human rights concerns and stated that Saudi airstrikes regularly strike civilian targets. Norway and Germany also banned arms exports to Saudi Arabia due to similar concerns in early 2018. The European Parliament called on the EU to introduce an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia in 2016.[2]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-affiliated militants executed an al Houthi captive on June 29. AQAP released a statement vowing to punish al Houthi forces for their mistreatment of prisoners on June 25. Unofficial AQAP social media channels distributed the video. The video did not contain official AQAP branding.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab killed five civilians and injured ten others in a mortar attack in Wadajir district, northeastern Mogadishu on July 1. The al Shabaab militants fired five mortars during a Somali Independence Day ceremony. Al Shabaab claimed the attack, saying that it had targeted the AMISOM headquarters in Mogadishu.[5]

Somali National Army (SNA) troops killed 15 al Shabaab fighters and a commander in an offensive on Kismayo, Lower Jubba region on July 2. Somali media named the al Shabaab commander as Ali Abdullahi Sadiq.[6]

Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers removed the terrorist designation from three rebel groups on July 1. The rebel groups are Ginbot 7, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and the the Oromo Liberation Front (ONLF). The Council of Ministers left al Shabaab and al Qaeda on the terror list. The Ethiopian Parliament ratified an amnesty bill on June 29 that absolves hundreds of former rebels imprisoned on terrorism charges.[7]

[1] “UAE announces pause in Hudaida offensive,” Al Jazeera, July 1, 2018,; Margaret Coker, “In Yemen, a Pause in Fighting Raises Hopes for Peace Talks,” New York Times, July 1, 2018,; AnwarGargash, Twitter, July 2, 2018,; “Ansarullah Denies Pause of UAE Aggression on Hodeidah," Al Masirah, July 2, 2018,; "The government adheres to the withdrawal of the Houthis from Hodeidah and its ports to enter into negotiations" Al Masdar Online, June 30,; "The battle of Hodeidah erupts a great dispute between Hadi and the UAE may result a halt to the coalition operations," Al Masdar Online, July 2,; The Parliament confirms its position in support of legitimacy in its war to restore the state," Saba New, July 1, 2018,;  
“UN envoy visits Yemen for talks on key port city,” Gulf News, July 2, 2018,; Simeon Kerr "Arab coalition pauses assault on vital Yemeni port," Financial Times, July 2,; “"After Gargash comment about stopping military operations in Hudaydah, Yemeni Foreign Minister calls weclomes the Emirati ambassador," Mareb Press, July 1, 2018,; and “President Hadi calls on Houthis to surrender weapons as UN envoy arrives in Sanaa,” Arab News, July 2, 2018,
[2] “Belgian court suspends licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia,” Al Araby, July 2, 2018,
[3] Elisabeth Kendall, Twitter, July 2, 2018,
[5] Harun Maruf, “5 Civilians Dead in Mogadishu Mortar Attack,” VOA News, July 1, 2018,; AMISOM Somalia, Twitter, July 2, 2018,; and “Deadly mortar attack kills 3 people in Mogadishu,” Mareeg, July 1, 2018,
[6] Mogadishu News, Twitter, July 2, 2018,
[7] “Ethiopia removes rebel groups from terrorist list,” New Business Ethiopia, July 2, 2018,; and “Ethiopia set to remove 3 armed groups from terrorist list,” News 24, July 1, 2018,

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