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: Emirati-backed forces begin operation to clear AQAP militants from strongholds in Abyan governorate; UAE prevents ships carrying $680 million from entering Aden port; British Queen welcomes Saudi Crown Prince in the UK

Horn of Africa: U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia issues a security alert amid civil unrest; AFRICOM commander testifies before House Armed Services Committee; Al Shabaab IED strikes convoy carrying officials and soldiers between Afgoi and Wanlaweyn, Lower Shabelle region

Yemen Security Brief

Emirati-backed al Hizam Rapid Intervention Security Forces launched “Operation Sweeping Torrent” to clear al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from al Mahfad district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on March 7. The Saudi-led coalition is supporting the operation. Al Hizam Rapid Intervention Security Forces arrested nine local AQAP commanders and killed one other in clashes in al Mahfad on March 7, according to local news sources. Al Hizam Rapid Intervention Security Forces commander Abdul Latif al Sayyed is leading the operation after he reportedly traveled to Hadramawt governorate through Abyan on March 6. The UAE launched operations in Hadramawt on February 14, and Shabwah on February 26 to clear AQAP strongholds in eastern Yemen.[1] 

The UAE prevented ships carrying $680 million from entering Aden port on February 7, according to Hadi government officials who spoke with the Associated Press. The officials stated that the money is intended to pay the salaries of government employees. The UAE has also barred aircraft carrying cash from landing at Aden’s airport, according to the officials. The Hadi government has been unable to pay most government salaries for over a year.[2]

British Queen Elizabeth II welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the start of a three-day visit to the UK on March 7. Salman will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who pledged on March 5 to discuss human rights concerns with Salman. Demonstrators protested Saudi Arabia’s engagement in Yemen outside the British Parliament building on March 7.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia issued a security alert on March 6 after reports of “civil unrest” in the Oromia region. The U.S. Embassy restricted travel for embassy personnel outside of Addis Ababa because strikes by Oromo activists have disrupted several roads leading to the capital. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters are also endangering the surrounding Oromia region. Oromo activists began a three-day strike on March 5 in response to the Ethiopian Parliament’s ratification of a six-month state of emergency on March 2. The Council of Ministers declared a state of emergency on February 16, one day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned following anti-government protests in the Oromia region. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the Ethiopian ruling party coalition, is scheduled to elect a new prime minister on March 11. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Ethiopia for his African tour on March 7.[4]

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander General Thomas Waldhauser testified before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee to discuss AFRICOM’s strategy on March 6. General Waldhauser said AFRICOM concentrates the majority of its personnel in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, and West Africa to fight ISIS affiliates in the Sahel, Boko Haram, and al Shabaab. Waldhauser said that al Shabaab remains a threat to Somalia and the region, citing al Shabaab’s bombing of Mogadishu in October 2017 and recent use of vehicle-borne IEDs in the capital. He asserted that AFRICOM continues to pressure al Shabaab and ISIS-aligned militants in Somalia with special operations raids and airstrikes. General Waldhauser emphasized AFRICOM’s training and equipment assistance to the SNA. He stated that AFRICOM’s end goal is to transition the security responsibility from AMISOM to the Somali Federal Government. Waldhauser also advocated for humanitarian aid for millions of Somalis facing food insecurity.[5] 

An al Shabaab roadside improvised explosive device (IED) killed two HirShabelle regional officials and three Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers on the road between Afgoi and Wanlaweyn, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on March 7. The IED struck the vehicle carrying HirShabelle State MP Ahmed Abdi Farah and Southwest State Security Minister Abdulkadir Abdirahman Baraf as they traveled with bodyguards from Baledogle Airport to Mogadishu. An African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) spokesman warned on March 6 that al Shabaab would increase attacks on government targets as AMISOM and SNA forces reopen supply roads connecting Mogadishu to central and southern Somalia.[6]

[1] “The Arab Alliance launches Operation Sweeping Torrent,” Aden Tomorrow, March 7, 2018,; “With support of Arab Coalition Forces, ‘Operation Sweeping Torrent’ begins to cleanse Abyan of al-Qaeda,” WAM, March 7, 2018,; and “Launching of Operation Sweeping Torrent against terrorism to purge the remaining from al Mahfad district,” Aden Lang, March 7, 2018,
[2] Ahmed Al-Haj, “Yemen officials say UAE barring ships with government cash,” AP, March 7, 2018,
[3] Jill Lawless, “Saudi crown prince greeted in Britain with pomp, protest,” AP, March 7, 2018,,-protests; and “British PM May to raise concerns over Yemen to Saudi during visit,” Reuters, March 5, 2018,
[4] “U.S. Embassy issues security alert in Ethiopia as Oromia strike bites,” Africa News, March 7, 2018,; “U.S. Secretary of State to focus on security on first African visit,” March 7, 2018,; “Breaking news: EPRDF to hold long awaited executive committee meeting as of Sunday, Council meeting will follow,” Addis Standard, March 7, 2018,; “Ethiopia's EPRDF sets March 11 date to elect new Prime Minister,” Africa News, March 7, 2018,; and “Security Alert – U. S. Embassy Addis Ababa,” U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, March 6, 2018,
[5] “AFRICOM Continues Efforts for Stable, Secure Continent,” AFRICOM Media Room, March 7, 2018,; “US Africom Briefs Congress On Somalia Mission,” Radio Dalsan, March 7, 2018,; “2018 Posture Statement to Congress,” United States Africa Command, March 6, 2018,; and “U.S. military presence in Africa grew again, but ‘we’re not at war,’ top U.S. commander says,” VICE News, March 6, 2018,
[6] “Somali Regional Minister, MP & 3 Others Killed In Lower Shabelle Blast,” Radio Dalsan, March 7, 2018,; “Two state MPs killed in landmine explosion in Balidogle,” Goobjoog, March 7, 2018,; Harun Maruf, Twitter, March 7, 2018,; and “AMISOM Warns of Increased Al-Shabab Ambushes,” Voice of America, March 6, 2018,

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