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: Saudi-led coalition and al Houthi movement reach a ceasefire in al Hudaydah city; U.S. stops refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen; UAE expresses support for UN-led peace talks in Sweden; UAE crown prince and UK foreign minister meet with al Islah party leaders in Abu Dhabi; Transitional Political Council of the South President accepts invitation to Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: UN Security Council lifts sanctions on Eritrea; UN report accuses UAE of plotting to undermine SFG; UN report details foiled al Shabaab VBIED attack against Nairobi; al Shabaab militants kill Puntland soldiers in Boosaaso, Puntland; protests break out in response to al Shabaab member’s death sentence in Mudug region, northern Somalia 

Yemen Security Brief

The Saudi-led coalition and the al Houthi movement reached an informal ceasefire in al Hudaydah city, western Yemen, on November 13, according to Yemeni officials. Residents reported that fighting slowed in the city on November 13 after Emirati-backed Yemeni forces partially surrounded the city. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths welcomed the reduction in hostilities and stressed that it is a crucial step toward enabling the political process.[1]

 U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed on November 9 that the U.S. has stopped refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen. Mattis confirmed that the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition are planning to build up legitimate Yemeni forces to secure the country’s borders and contribute to counterterrorism efforts. Russian defense officials also stated that Russia will assist with the development of the Yemeni Army during a meeting with Hadi government Ambassador to Russia Ahmed al Wahishi on November 13.[2]

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated on November 14 that the UAE welcomes the announcement that the UN will lead peace talks in Sweden by the end of 2018. Gargash emphasized that the Saudi-led coalition will urge all parties to participate in the peace talks. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is expected to meet with Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi this week.[3]

Al Islah party leader Mohammed al Yedoumi and Secretary General Abed al Wahab al Anisi met with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Abu Dhabi on November 13.[4]

Transitional Political Council for the South (STC) President Aydarus al Zubaidi accepted an invitation on November 13 to meet with Saudi officials in Riyadh. The date of the meeting is unknown.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to lift sanctions on Eritrea on November 14. The Security Council’s resolution urges Eritrea and Djibouti to work toward normalizing ties and settling a border dispute. The Security Council justified the lifting of sanctions by noting that there is no evidence of current Eritrean support for al Shabaab and that Eritrea reconciled with Ethiopia in July 2018.[6]

Emirati diplomats conspired to undermine the Somali Federal Government (SFG) through various methods, including bribery, according to a report from the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). Emirati officials met with a former senior official in Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) in Nairobi in April 2018 to discuss ways to undermine the SFG. The meeting occurred one day before Somali security forces seized 9.6 million U.S. dollars from the Emirati Ambassador to Somalia.[7]

The UN SEMG report revealed that Kenyan police intercepted a Nairobi-bound vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in February 2018 near Merti, Isiolo County, eastern Kenya. The operation would have been al Shabaab’s most ambitious attack outside Somalia since the attack in Garissa County, eastern Kenya in April 2015 that killed 148 people. Kenyan police found rifles in the car that had been imported by the SFG. The foiled attack represented the first known instance when al Shabaab used weapons imported by the SFG in an operation outside of Somalia.[8]

Al Shabaab militants claimed to kill three Puntland soldiers in Boosaaso town, Puntland on November 14. The attack has not been confirmed.[9]

A military court in Puntland sentenced four al Shabaab members and one ISIS member to death for terrorism on November 14. A large protest broke out in response to the death sentence of Abdirisak Hussein, an al Shabaab member, in Galkayo town, Mudug region, northern northern Somalia. The demonstrators blocked roads and burned rubber tires.[10]

[1] “Coalition, Yemen Rebels Agree on Informal Truce,” Associated Press, November 13, 2018,; “Violence calms in Yemen’s Hodeida in middle of diplomatic pressure,” Daily Star, November 14, 2018,; and “The Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen Welcomes Reports of Reduction of Hostilities in Hudaydah,” UN Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, November 13, 2018,

[2] “Statement by Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis on Refueling Saudi Coalition Aircraft,” U.S. Department of Defense,; Phil Stewart, “U.S. halting refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen’s war,” Reuters, November 9, 2018,; “al Wahishi meets with military leaders in the Russian Defense Ministry,” Saba New, November 13, 2018,; and Mareb Alward, Twitter, November 13, 2018,

[3] “UAE welcomes ‘early convening’ of UN-led Yemen talks in Sweden,” Arab News, November 14, 2018,; and Anwar Gargash, Twitter, November 14, 2018,

[4] “The leaders of the Reform in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh call for the president of the ‘transitional’ south and an end to the battles of Hudaydah.. What is happening? Is the end near?” Mareb Press, November 13, 2018,

[5] “Saudi Arabia invites head of UAE-backed Yemen group for talks,” Middle East Monitor, November 14, 2018,; and “The leaders of the “Reform in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh call for the president of the “transitional” south and an end to the battles of Hudaydah.. What is happening? Is the end near?” Mareb Press, November 13, 2018,

[6] Martin Plaut, “After decades of UN and self-imposed isolation, Eritrea is coming in from the cold,” Quartz Africa, November 14, 2018,; and “UN Security Council lifts sanctions against Eritrea,” Africa News, November 14, 2018,

[7] United Nations Security Council, Report on the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SMEG) (S/2018/1002), November 9, 2018, 27, available at; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 14, 2018,

[8] United Nations Security Council, Report on the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SMEG) (S/2018/1002), November 9, 2018, 27, available at; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 14, 2018,

[9] Abdulkadir Fiidka, Twitter, November 14, 2018,

[10] Harun Maruf, Twitter, November 14, 2018,; and Live from Mogadishu, Twitter, November 14, 2018,

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