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: UK and Saudi Arabia to strengthen UN inspection regime; Lahij security official survives assassination attempt north of Aden; Emirati-backed security forces disperse protest by oil workers in Aden; Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit civilian areas in al Hudaydah governorate

Horn of Africa: U.S. Secretary of State encourages Ethiopia to lift state of emergency; Somali Federal Government petitions Arab League to mediate port disagreement with Somaliland

Yemen Security Brief

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed to strengthen the UN inspection regime to ensure that Yemeni ports remain open on March 8. Johnson stressed that any solution to the Yemeni conflict must ensure Saudi Arabia’s border security. Saudi Arabia introduced a new aid initiative in January that directs humanitarian and commercial shipments away from al Houthi-held al Hudaydah port through which eighty percent of all imported goods run. Salman arrived in the UK on March 7 for a three-day visit ahead of his visit to the U.S.[1] 

Security Director of Lahij governorate Saleh al Sayyed al Hadi survived an assassination attempt as he was traveling to Lahij governorate from Aden in the Rabat area north of Aden on March 7. Militants assassinated a security commander in Aden on March 5. Both ISIS and AQAP have conducted assassinations in Aden.[2]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces dispersed a protest by oil workers in al Buraiqah district, Aden on March 7. The workers staged a sit-in to block oil transportation trucks and to protest the sale of oil on the black market. Al Hizam Security Forces fired shots into the air to disperse the protesters.[3]

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed six civilians in Zabid and al Jarahi districts, al Hudaydah governorate, western Yemen on March 8, according to al Houthi sources. Coalition-backed Hadi government forces seek to seize Yemen’s western coast up to al Hudaydah port from the al Houthi movement. Coalition-backed Hadi government forces took control of Hays city, directly south of Zabid and al Jarahi, on February 5. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes also killed six civilians in Shamlan area, northwest of Sana’a city, on March 8, according to both al Houthi and anti-al Houthi sources.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that Ethiopia must lift the state of emergency to resolve its political crisis on March 8. The Ethiopian Minister of Defense claimed that security forces arrested anti-government protesters after armed protesters attacked security forces on March 7. Secretary Tillerson stated that the Ethiopian government must grant “greater political freedoms” to its citizens while also maintaining security. Oromo protesters shut down offices and roads leading to Addis Ababa across the Oromia region on March 5 in response to Ethiopian Parliament’s ratification of the state of emergency on March 2. The U.S. Embassy issued a security alert on March 6 due to civil unrest. 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 ruling party is scheduled to elect a new prime minister on March 11.[5] 

The Somali Federal Government filed a complaint with the Arab League on March 7 over an agreement signed between Somaliland, the Emirati company DP World, and Ethiopia for stake in the port of Berbera. The Somali government said that it did not attend the agreement, claiming it violated the sovereignty of Somalia. Somaliland, Emirati-based DP World, and Ethiopia signed a tripartite agreement to share management of the port of Berbera on March 1. The Somali government declared the agreement illegal on March 2. Emirati DP World, one of the world’s largest port operators, rejected the nullification and stated that Somaliland is an independent country. Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said he considered the Somali government’s rejection a “declaration of war,” according to reports from Voice of America. The deal follows a break in diplomatic relations between Djibouti and the UAE after Djibouti terminated a contract with DP World and evicted Emirati troops from the country in 2014. Ethiopia relies on the port of Berbera and the Djiboutian port for most of its imports and commercial interests.[6]

[1] “Foreign Secretary remarks on the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” UK Government, March 8, 2018,
[2] “A security official survives an assassination attempt in Lahij and residents find two bodies in Aden,” Al Masdar, March 8, 2018,; and “Breaking Lahij security chief survives assassination attempt north of Aden,” Aden Lang, March 7, 2018,
[3] “Hizam Security Forces forcefully dispersed a protest by the employees of the oil company in Aden,” Al Masdar, March 7, 2018,; and “Al Hizam Security Forces shoot oil workers in Aden,” Al Akhbar Al Yemeni, March 7, 2018,  
[4] “Death of 6 citizens and the loss of others as a result of air raids in al Hudaydah,” Al Masirah, March 8, 2018,; and “Killed and wounded civilians in a coalition air strike targeting a house northwest of Sanaa,” Al Masdar, March 8, 2018,
[5] “Tillerson Stops in Ethiopia on First Official Visit to Africa,” Voice of America, March 7, 2018,; “Tillerson says greater freedom the answer for Ethiopia,” Reuters, March 8, 2018,; “Ethiopia Reports Arrests Over Anti-Government Protests,” Voice of America, March 8, 2018,; “Ethiopia govt admits violent fightback to state of emergency regime,” Africa News, March 8, 2018,; “News: Barely a week after legislating controversial emergency decree, defense minister says public push back looking like ‘color revolution,’” Addis Standard, March 7, 2018,; and Addis Standard, Twitter, March 8, 2018,
[6] “Somalia launches complaint with Arab League over Berbera agreement,” Hiiraan Online, March 8, 2018,; “Somalia Protests To AU & Arab League Over Berbera Port Deal,” Radio Dalsan, March 8, 2018,; “Somalia petitions Arab League over Berbera port deal,” Goobjoog, March 7, 2018,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, March 8, 2018,

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