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: Al Houthi movement refuses to withdraw from al Hudaydah port; Russian officials meet with Hadi government officials in Aden and STC delegation in Moscow

Horn of Africa: SNA forces vacate more bases in Middle Shabelle region amid salary dispute; AFRICOM airstrike targets al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region; Amnesty International reports civilian casualties from U.S. strikes in Somalia; Somali and AMISOM forces arrest al Shabaab official in Mogadishu; gunman kills five miners in Ethiopia’s Oromia region

Yemen Security Brief

The leader of the al Houthi movement’s Supreme Revolutionary Committees, Mohammad Ali al Houthi, said that the al Houthi movement will not relinquish control of ports of al Hudaydah along Yemen’s western coast in an interview with the Associated Press on March 19. The al Houthi movement agreed to withdraw its forces but it will maintain control of the ports following redeployment. Prior to al Houthi’s statement, UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said that there had been “significant progress” on the withdrawal of forces from al Hudaydah. Implementation of the UN-brokered peace agreement has stalled since December 2018 due to disagreements over who will control the ports in al Hudaydah following the mutual redeployment of al Houthi forces and Saudi-led coalition forces.[1] 

Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin said that Russia supports the Hadi government and is planning to open a consulate in Aden following a meeting with Hadi government spokesperson Rajah Badi in Aden on March 19. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met with Southern Transitional Council President Aydarus al Zubaidi on March 19 in Moscow, where they discussed how to resolve the southern issue. The Southern Transitional Council seeks to establish a southern state independent of the Hadi government.[2]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali National Army (SNA) forces vacated bases in Middle Shabelle region, north and west of the capital Mogadishu, for the third day this week in a dispute over salary payments with the Somali Federal Government (SFG). SNA forces vacated bases in Mahaday, Qalimow, and Bal’ad and gathered in Jowhar. Al Shabaab militants raided Bal’ad town after troops withdrew on March 18. Militants also seized Dhanaane in Lower Shabelle region, south of Mogadishu, after SNA forces withdrew due to unpaid salaries. The Somali Prime Minister said on March 18 that troops must register to receive their salaries.[3]

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted an airstrike targeting al Shabaab militants near Awdheegle in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia on March 18. The strike killed three militants. The AFRICOM press release stated that it will review information about reported civilian casualties from the strike. Reuters reported that the strike killed four people.[4]

Amnesty International reported that U.S. airstrikes have killed 14 civilians in Somalia since 2017, challenging assessments by U.S. military officials that U.S. strikes have caused no civilian casualties in Somalia. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said that the report does not accurately reflect AFRICOM's assessments following investigations into civilian casualties and highlighted the methodological challenges in Amnesty's study, as well as al Shabaab's incentive to falsely report casualties.[5]

Somali security forces and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces arrested an al Shabaab judicial official in Mogadishu on March 19. The official was the head of an al Shabaab court in Barire in Lower Shabelle region south of Mogadishu.[6]

A gunman killed five miners, including three Ethiopians and two foreign nationals, in southwestern Oromia region in Ethiopia on March 19.[7]

Visit our Yemen, Somalia, and Ethiopia story streams.

[1] Ahmed al Haj, “AP Interview” Yemen’s rebels say they won’t give up the port,” Associated Press, March 19, 2019.

[2] “Yemeni government: Houthi statements are an abandonment of Stockholm Deal,” Al Arabiya, March 20, 2019,; and “President Al-Zubaidi is heading to Moscow upon official invitation from the Russian Foreign Ministry,” Southern Transitional Council, March 19, 2019

[3] “SNA now vacate 3 bases as salary row bites,” Goobjoog, March 20, 2019,; “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 18, 2019,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, March 19, 2019,

[4] “Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. target al-Shabaab terrorists,” U.S. Africa Command, March 19, 2019,; and  Abdi Sheikh, “Air strike kills four people in Somalia,” Reuters, March 19, 2019,

[5] “USA/Somalia: Shroud of secrecy around civilian deaths masks possible war crimes,” Amnesty International March 20, 2019,; Helene Cooper, "Report Says U.S. Airstrikes Have Killed 14 Civilians in Somalia," New York Times, March 19, 2019,; and “U.S. Africa Command Statement on Amnesty International Report,” U.S. Africa Command, March 19, 2019,

[6] “Security forces arrest al-Shabaab member in Mogadishu,” Goobjoog, March 20, 2019,

[7] “Gunmen kill five miners in Ethiopia, TV says foreigners among dead,” Reuters, March 19, 2019,; and “Ethiopia: 5 killed in Oromia shooting,” Anadolu, March 19, 2019,

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