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: Secretary Mattis discusses Yemeni conflict with Omani Sultan Qaboos; UK to sell Saudi Arabia 48 Typhoon fighter jets; UN appoints new Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen; Emirati-backed forces conclude operation against AQAP in Abyan governorate; militants detonate IED targeting security forces in Aden

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian forces kill Oromo civilians near Kenyan-Ethiopian border; Somali special forces capture town in Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia; al Shabaab militants attack AMISOM bases in southern Somalia; al Shabaab militants attack Somali forces near Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis discussed the Yemeni conflict with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said in Muscat, Oman on March 11. Secretary Mattis and Sultan Qaboos spoke about the different groups fighting near the Omani-Yemeni border and Oman’s plans for a political resolution to the Yemeni conflict. Secretary Mattis and Sultan Qaboos also discussed strengthening U.S.-Omani military relations. Secretary Mattis will meet with the Omani defense minister and other senior Omani officials on March 12. Oman has acted as a neutral mediator in the Yemeni conflict on multiple occasions.[1] 

The UK signed a memorandum of intent to sell Saudi Arabia 48 Typhoon fighter jets on March 9. Saudi Arabia currently has 72 Typhoon jets. The international community has criticized Saudi Arabia for indiscriminately targeting civilians with airstrikes. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman traveled to the UK on March 7 for a three-day visit ahead of his visit to the U.S.[2]

The UN appointed Lise Grande as the new Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen on March 11. Grande arrived in Sana’a on March 12 and announced that UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres will hold a conference aimed at increasing aid to Yemen on April 3. Grande met with Hadi government Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi to discuss humanitarian aid distribution across Yemen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 11. Grande also met with the head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) to discuss enhancing cooperation between KSrelief and UN in Yemen on March 11. Grande previously served as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq.[3]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Rapid Intervention Forces concluded an operation to clear al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on March 11. The UAE launched Operation Sweeping Torrent in al Mahfad on March 7. Al Hizam Security Forces arrested and killed multiple AQAP field commanders and uncovered a large cache of weapons in Wadi Hamara, according to an Emirati press release. The UAE launched two other operations to dismantle AQAP strongholds in eastern Yemen in February.[4]

Militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) that wounded seven Aden-based security forces north of Aden city on March 11. Emirati-backed security forces raided militant strongholds in Sheikh Othman district on March 9. AQAP and Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) both operate in Aden.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian security forces killed nine civilians and injured 12 others near the Kenyan-Ethiopian border in Moyale town, Oromia region, Ethiopia on March 11. The soldiers were searching for Oromo Liberation Front militants in the area, according to Ethiopia’s state news agency. The Ethiopian government has cracked down on dissent in the Oromia region since anti-government protests erupted over land disputes and human rights violations in 2015. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned on February 15 to ease tensions between Oromo protesters and the government.[6] 

U.S.-backed Somali special forces recaptured Gambole town near Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia on March 10. Somali forces also raided an al Shabaab training camp in Gambole. Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces recaptured Bal’ad town, Middle Shabelle region after al Shabaab temporarily seized control of the town on March 2. The Somali government launched an offensive to recapture terrain from al Shabaab in south-central Somalia in October 2017.[7]

Al Shabaab militants attempted to raid two AMISOM bases in southern Somalia between March 10 and 11, according to an al Shabaab-affiliated social media account. Al Shabaab militants attacked a Ugandan AMISOM base in Ambreso town, near Barawe in Lower Shabelle region, on March 10. Al Shabaab militants also attacked an Ethiopian AMISOM base at the Bardhere airport in Bardhere, Gedo region on March 11.[8]

Al Shabaab militants attacked multiple military targets near Mogadishu between March 10 and March 12, according to an al Shabaab-affiliated social media account. Al Shabaab militant detonated an IED targeting Emirati-trained Somali soldiers in Taredishe town two miles west of Mogadishu on March 10. Al Shabaab militants claimed to kill two Somali soldiers in the Yaqshid district, Mogadishu on March 11. Al Shabaab militants also ambushed Somali forces on the outskirts of Mogadishu on March 12.[9] 

[1] “Mattis Begins Overseas Trip to Strengthen Partnerships,” Department of Defense, March 11, 2018,; and “Mattis in Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos,” Arab News, March 11, 2018,
[2] Richard Perez-Pena, “Britain to Sell Jets to Saudis Despite Conduct of Yemen War,” The New York Times, March 9, 2018,
[3] “UN Appoints Lise Grande as Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen,” Asharq Al Awsat, March 12, 2018,; “KSrelief Supervisor MEets with New UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen,” Saudi Press Agency, March 11, 2018,; and “UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator arrives in Sana’a,” Saba, March 12, 2018,  
[4] “Operation ‘Sweeping Torrent concludes,” WAM, March 11, 2018,
[5] “Seven soldiers of the emergency forces were wounded by an improvised explosive device that targeted a military command post following a security mission north of Aden,” Aden Tomorrow, March 11, 2018,; and “7 soldiers wounded by an explosive device in the city of Aden,” Al Masdar, March 12, 2018,
[6] “Ethiopian soldiers kill nine civilians mistaken for militants,” Reuters, March 11, 2018,; and “Ethiopia military kills nine in Moyale, residents flee into Kenya,” Radio Shabelle, March 11, 2018,
[7] “Somalia: Govt forces ‘retake’ training base from al Shabaab,” Garowe Online, March 10, 2018,
[8] “Al Shabaab claims multiple attacks in southern Somalia,” Telegram, March 12, 2018.
[9] “Al Shabaab claims multiple attacks in southern Somalia,” Telegram, March 12, 2018; “Three people killed in Mogadishu,” March 11, 2018,; and “Somali forces clash with al Shabaab in Mogadishu, 1 dead,” Radio Shabelle, March 12, 2018,

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