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: UAE hires former U.S. special operations forces to assassinate members of Islah party in Yemen; President Hadi sacks prime minister over economic crisis; tropical cyclone kills two people and injures 33 others in eastern Yemen

Horn of Africa: AFRICOM airstrike kills approximately 60 al Shabaab fighters in Somalia; al Shabaab militants storm checkpoint near Hirshabelle presidential palace in Jowhar town, Middle Shabelle region, southern Somalia; al Shabaab claims offensive in Marka city, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; Ethiopian PM Abiy appoints new cabinet half composed of female ministers; Ethiopian government arrests military officers for inciting protests

Yemen Security Brief

The UAE hired former U.S. special operations forces to assassinate prominent clerics and political figures from the Islah party in Yemen, according to an October 16 report by Buzzfeed. The U.S. mercenaries attempted to kill the leader of the Islah party in Aden, Anssaf Ali Mayo, on December 29, 2015. One of the mercenaries indicated his group was responsible for several of the assassinations of Islah party members in Aden since 2015. The UAE gave the U.S. mercenaries ranks in the Emirati military. The former U.S. special operations forces worked for private U.S. company Spear Operations Group.[1]

Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi fired Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghir over Yemen’s economic crisis on October 15. Hadi accused Daghir of negligence and vowed to investigate him for his role in the economic crisis. Hadi also accused the government of failing to prepare adequately for tropical cyclone Luban, which hit al Mahrah governorate, eastern Yemen on October 15. Hadi appointed Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed as the new prime minister.[2]

Tropical cyclone Luban killed two people in al Mahrah governorate, eastern Yemen, according to Governor Sheikh Rajeh Bakureit on October 16. Bakureit reported that at least fifteen people are missing and called on the Saudi-led coalition and the Hadi government to send helicopters to rescue families trapped on the roofs of their homes. The UN said that at least 33 people have been injured by tropical cyclone Luban in al Mahrah. The cyclone also affected 2,000 families and caused extensive infrastructure damage.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

United States Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) announced that its October 12 airstrike near Haradhere, Mudug region, central Somalia killed approximately 60 al Shabaab fighters. AFRICOM did not state what the target was, but stated that it was not a camp. The airstrike is AFRICOM’s deadliest since November 2017.[4]

Al Shabaab militants stormed a checkpoint near the Hirshabelle presidential palace in Jowhar town, Middle Shabelle region, southern Somalia on October 16. The militants killed one soldier and injured two others.[5]

Al Shabaab claimed to conduct an offensive on Marka city, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on October 15. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was visiting the town during the attack but there are no reports of fighting occurring near him. Al Shabaab militants killed six Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and seized two machine guns and an RPG launcher during the attack. The attack has not been confirmed.[6]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his new cabinet on October 16. Half of the new cabinet ministers are female. Abiy reduced the number of posts from 28 to 20 and placed women in top security posts, including Minister of Defense and Minister of Peace, for the first time in Ethiopian history.[7]

The Ethiopian government arrested military officers on October 14 who are suspected of instigating members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) to march on the prime minister’s office on October 10.  ENDF Chief of Staff General Seare Mekonnen stated that the soldiers’ march was unconstitutional and not sanctioned by the ENDF leadership. The arrested officers issued an apology after meeting with General Mekonnen.[8]

[1] “American mercenaries were hired to assassinate politicians in the Middle East,” Buzzfeed, October 16, 2018,

[2] “Yemen President sacks PM over economic crisis,” Asharq al Awsat, October 15, 2018,; and “The President’s decision to sack bin Dagher and replace him by Abdul Malik as the new PM,” Saba New, October 15, 2018,

[3] “Tropical storm lashes eastern Yemen province, injures 33,” The Washington Post, October 16, 2018,; and “Two dead in Yemen after flash floods hit east,” The National, october 16, 2018,

[4] “US military says airstrike in Somalia kills about 60 al-Shabaab fighters, deadliest in nearly a year,” KSBY News, October 16, 2018,; and Zeke Miller, Twitter, October 16, 2018,

[5] “Al-Shabaab launches attack on Jowhar town, kills one soldier,” Radio Shabelle, October 16, 2018,

[6] “Shabaab Claims Offensive in Lower Shabelle During Presence of Somali President,” SITE Intelligence Group, October 15, 2018, English translation available by subscription at

[7] Paul Schemm, “In Ethiopia leader’s new cabinet, half the ministers are women,” Washington Post, October 16, 2018,

[8] “Ethiopia arresting high ranking military officers behind last week anarchy,” Borkena, October 14, 2018,; and Engidu Woldie, “Ethiopia arrests leaders of special commandos for violating constitution, military discipline” ESAT, October 15, 2018,

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