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: Militants assassinate director of military intelligence at Aden International Airport in Aden city; UN special envoy to Yemen meets with Kuwaiti emir and foreign minister; UN humanitarian coordinator warns Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on al Hudaydah put civilians at great risk; Saudi-led coalition airstrikes destroy al Houthi missile launch sites near the Saudi-Yemeni border

Horn of Africa: Somalia and Eritrea re-establish diplomatic relations; al Shabaab claims occupying town in Gedo region, southwestern Somalia; al Shabaab claims mortar attack on Baraawe airbase, Lower Shabelle region; Uganda People’s Defense Forces rotates new battalion into Somalia; U.S. Vice President Mike Pence praises Ethiopian prime minister’s reforms; thousands of Ethiopians attend funeral of Nile dam project manager

Yemen Security Brief

Militants assassinated Director of Military Intelligence at Aden International Airport Colonel Nasser Makrij in Aden city on July 29. Unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle killed Colonel Makrij near his home in Khormaksar district. Militants attempted to assassinate Makrij in 2014.[1]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths met with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah in Kuwait City, Kuwait on July 29. Griffiths emphasized the importance of Kuwaiti's role in resolving the conflict in Yemen, according to Kuwaiti media. The Foreign Minister reiterated Kuwait’s commitment to providing humanitarian aid to Yemen. Griffiths told al Sabah he hoped to hold peace talks in August, according to Yemeni media.[2]

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande warned on July 29 that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in al Hudaydah are putting civilians “at extreme risk.” The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed that coalition airstrikes between July 26 and 28 damaged a reproductive health center, sanitation facility, and a water station in al Hudaydah governorate. The OCHA press release also warned that continued airstrikes on major facilities may accelerate the cholera epidemic.[3]

The Saudi-led coalition claimed it was able to destroy al Houthi ballistic missile launch sites in Sa’ada governorate, northern Yemen, according to Saudi state media on July 29. Al Houthi media reported the coalition conducted fifteen airstrikes hitting several districts in Sa’ada between July 28 and July 29.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed an agreement re-establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in Asmara on July 30. The Somali president called for the economic sanctions on Eritrea. Eritrea and Somalia severed diplomatic ties in 2003. Eritrea signed a peace declaration with Ethiopia on July 8, officially ending 20 years of hostilities.[5]

Al Shabaab claimed to seize the town of Saateelow in Gedo Region on July 29. Al Shabaab claimed to launch a surprise attack on a pro-government militia’s barracks before occupying the town. Saateelow is located between the cities of Luuq and Doolow near the Ethiopian border.[6]

Al Shabaab claimed to launch mortars at Baraawe airbase in Lower Shabelle region on July 30. Al Shabaab targeted a helicopter that was landing at the airbase. The attack killed one Somali soldier. Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops are based in Baraawe.[7]

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) deployed a contingent of 1,000 soldiers to Somalia on July 30 for AMISOM operations. The soldiers will replace another UPDF battalion that completed its tour with AMISOM on July 27.[8]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the White House during his visit to Washington D.C. on July 27. Ahmed and American Vice President Mike Pence discussed their commitment to building stronger relations between the U.S. and Ethiopia. Pence praised the Ethiopian prime minister for his significant political and economic reforms in a White House statement.[9]

Thousands of Ethiopians attended the funeral of Simegnew Bekele, the chief engineer of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), in Addis Ababa on July 29. Ethiopian police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Assailants assassinated Bekele in Addis Ababa on July 26. The GERD is Ethiopia’s most ambitious development project and is set to become Africa’s largest dam upon completion. Its construction has increased tensions with other Nile countries, however, including Egypt.[10]

[1] Ahmed al-Haj, “Yemen officials: Gunmen kill intel officer in city of Aden,” Washington Post, July 20, 2018,; Ali Mahmood, “Gunmen kill intelligence officer in Yemen’s Aden,” The National, July 30, 2018,; “High-ranking Yemeni spy assassinated in Yemen,” Anadolu Agency, July 30, 2018,; and “The assassination of a military intelligence officer in Aden by an armed gunman,” Al Masdar Online, July 29, 2018,

[2] “Kuwait is central pivot for peace in Yemen - UN envoy,” Kuwait News Agency July 29, 2018,; Kuwaiti FM, UN Envoy discuss situation in Yemen,” Kuwait News Agency, July 29, 2018,; “Griffith hopes to achieve peace in Yemen in August,” al Masdar Online, July 30, 2018,; and “UN Envoy: No Political Solution in Yemen without Kuwait’s Assistance,” Asharq al Awsat, July 30, 2018,;

[3] “Saudi-led coalition says it destroyed Yemen rebel missile launch sites,” Middle East Eye, July 29, 2018,; “Hudaydah ‘one airstrike away from unstoppable epidemic’: UN humanitarian chief in Yemen,” UN News, July 29, 2018,; “Saudi airstrikes in Yemen hit facilities providing water to hundreds of thousands facing cholera epidemic,” Deutsche Welle, July 30, 2018,; and “Civilians at extreme risk from airstrikes in Hodeidah,” Relief Web, July 29, 2018,   

[4] “Saudi-led coalition says it destroyed Yemen rebel missile launch sites,” Middle East Eye, July 29, 2018,; “In Saada, 20 Houthis killed, 28 imprisoned including high ranking commander,” Al Arabiya, July 30, 2018,; “Report: 52 US-Saudi airstrikes targets Yemen infrastructure over 24 past hours,” Saba News, July 28, 2018,; and “Al Houthi Missile Launch Sites Destroyed,” Riskmap, July 29, 2018,

[5] “Somalia, Eritrea mend ties as change sweeps Horn of Africa,” Channel News Asia, July 30, 2018,; Abdi Guled, “Eritrea and Somalia restore ties, want UN sanctions lifted,” Washington Post, July 30, 2018,; Abdi Guled, “Somali leader makes 1st visit to Eritrea in diplomatic thaw,” July 28, 2018,; and “Somalia, Eritrea sign agreement to establish diplomatic ties,” Goobjoog, July 30, 2018,

[6] “Shabaab claims seizing control over town in Gedo, attacking Ugandan and Somali soldiers in Lower Shabelle and Mogadishu,” SITE, July 30, 2018, available by subscription at

[7] “Somalia’s al-Shabab carries out attack in Barawe airport,” Mareeg, July 30, 2018,; and Mogadishu_News, Twitter, July 30, 2018,

[8] “AU troops arrive to boost Somalia peace force,” Goobjoog, July 30, 2018,; and “1,000 new Uganda troops arrive in Somalia,” Middle East Monitor, July 30, 2018,

[9] “U.S.’s Pence meets with Ethiopian prime minister, applauds reforms,” Reuters, July 28, 2018,; and “In White House meeting, US praises Ethiopia’s PM on reforms,” Washington Post, July 28, 2018,

[10] “Ethiopian dam engineer Simegnew Bekele’s funeral draws thousands,” BBC, July 29, 2018,; and Jenni Marsh, “Police fire tear gas at protesters during state funeral for Ethiopia’s Grand Dam engineer,” CNN, July 29, 2018,

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