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 Yemeni forces and coalition aircraft kill 80 al Houthi troops in al Hudaydah governorate; ISIS Wilayat al Bayda attack two AQAP positions in al Bayda; al Houthi forces attack Saudi military bases in Najran and Asir regions, Saudi Arabia; al Houthi forces claim to attack Emirati command center in western Yemen

Horn of Africa: Somali Federal Government rejects third-party mediation in dispute with federal member states; over 1,000 families flee clashes between al Shabaab and AMISOM-backed SNA forces in Hiraan region, central Somalia; Tanzanian authorities arrest 104 suspected Salafi-jihadi militants tied to Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama in Mozambique; Ethiopia signs peace agreement with Ogaden National Liberation Front; UK government sees no progress in Eritrea human rights record

Yemen Security Brief

Emirati-backed Yemeni, backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, continued offensives east and southeast of al Hudaydah city, western Yemen on October 21.  The Southern Giants Brigades claimed to kill 80 al Houthi fighters during the clashes. A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed more than 15 al Houthi leaders during a meeting in Kilo 16 area, east of al Hudaydah city. A second coalition airstrike killed more than 30 al Houthi fighters east of al Durayhimi district, southeast of al Hudaydah city. Giants Brigades forces also claimed to kill more than 30 al Houthi troops in fighting east of al Durayhimi district.[1]

The Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat al Bayda claimed to attack two positions held by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Qayfa area, northwestern al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on October 21. ISIS Wilayat al Bayda last claimed that its militants attacked AQAP militants in Qayfa area, al Bayda governorate, central Yemen on October 7.[2]

Al Houthi forces claimed to attack a Saudi military base with a Qasef 1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia on October 22. Al Houthi forces attacked Saudi military bases with rockets and artillery in Najran city and clashed with Saudi military near the Alab border crossing in Asir region, southern Saudi Arabia on October 19. The Saudi Ministry of Defense has not confirmed the attacks.[3]

Al Houthi missile forces claimed to attack an Emirati command center, assisted by surveillance from a drone, in an unspecified location in western Yemen on October 19.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

The Somali Federal Government (SFG) rejected calls from Somalia’s federal member states to seek third-party mediation in an ongoing dispute between the SFG and member states on October 21. The Upper House of Somalia’s parliament gave President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo a three-day ultimatum on October 20 to accept mediation from the Upper House. The SFG refused the offer but stated that President Farmajo remains open to dialogue with the member state presidents. SFG Prime Minister Ali Hassan Khaire stated that the SFG would not allow foreign parties to interfere in Somalia’s domestic politics, however. Somalia’s five federal member states suspended ties with the SFG on September 8, citing the SFG’s failure to maintain security and fairly distribute resources.[5]

Over 1,000 families fled fighting between al Shabaab and Somali National Army (SNA) forces backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Hiraan region, central Somalia. The civilians arrived in Jalalaqsi town, Hiraan region over 10 days in response to SNA and AMISOM operations against al Shabaab along the Shabelle river in Hiraan region. SNA and AMISOM forces claimed to capture multiple villages from al Shabaab in the region beginning on October 10.[6]

Tanzanian police have arrested 104 suspected Salafi-jihadi militants in recent months in southern and eastern Tanzania. Police accuse the suspects of planning to travel to Mozambique to train in militant camps. Tanzanian police stated that some of the suspected militants died during arrests while others escaped. Mozambican authorities began a trial for 189 suspected Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama militants earlier in October. Suspected Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama militants have carried out 40 attacks and killed more than 100 people in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, which borders Tanzania.[7]

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) signed a peace agreement with the Ethiopian government in Asmara, Eritrea on October 21. The ONLF pledged to disarm and pursue its struggles peacefully within Ethiopia’s political system. The ONLF has fought for the succession of Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region since 1984. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed removed the government’s terrorist designation for the ONLF and two other rebel groups in July 2018. The ONLF declared a unilateral ceasefire on August 12 but its leadership has remained based in Eritrea.[8]

The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated that it has not seen any evidence of Eritrea improving its human rights record despite positive political developments in the region on October 18. The United Nations elected Eritrea one of the representatives on the UN Human Rights Council on October 12. Eritrea signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia on July 8, which many human rights organizations hoped would prompt the Eritrean government to improve respect for human rights. Human Rights Watch criticized the Ethiopian government on October 20 for the mass arrests of youths in Addis Ababa in September. Amnesty International also criticized the Ethiopian government on October 18.[9]

[1] “Giants announce the killing of 80 al Houthis in Hudaydah,” Al Akhbar Now, October 21, 2018,; “the Alliance targets a high meeting of the Houthis in Durahmi and leaders fall and dozens dead,” 7adramout, October 22, 2018,; and “A senior Houthi leader was killed along with his companions in coalition raids in Hodeidah,” 7adramout,

[2] “IS claims attack on 2 AQAP positions in al bayda,” SITE Intelligence Group, October 21, 2018, English translation available by subscription at

[3] “Air defense shell Saudi mercenaries in Najran,” Al Masirah, October 22, 2018,;“Saudi mercenaries killed in a large military operation in Najran,” Al Masirah, October 19, 2018,; and “Mercenaries killed in attack on Alab crossing in Asir,” Al Masirah, October 19, 2018,

[4] “Drone’s Surveillance and Rocketry Force Target Central Command of UAE Forces,” Al Masirah, October 20, 2018,

[5] “Govt pays no heed to Senate role in mediating political crisis,” Garowe, October 22, 2018,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, October 21, 2018,

[6] “Hundreds of families displaced over security fears in Hiran region arrive in Jalalaqsi town,” Radio Ergo, October 22, 2018,; and “Somali, AU forces seize key areas from Al-Shabaab,” Caasimada, October 10, 2018,

[7] “Tanzanian arrests 104 people for plotting “radical camps” in Mozambique,” Reuters, October 21, 2018,; and “Gulf of Aden Security Review: October 3, 2018,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, October 3, 2018,

[8] “Ethiopia: Main Ogaden rebel group to lay down arms,” October 22, 2018, Anadolu Agency,; “Ethiopia, ONLF sign historic peace deal,” Addis Standard, October 22, 2018,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, October 21, 2018,

[9] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “No evidence of human rights reforms in Eritrea - UK,” Africa News, October 19, 2018,; Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, “Eritrea, Cameroon among African reps on UN Human Rights Council,” Africa News, October 13, 2018,; “Rights groups warn Ethiopia against return to repression,” Associated Press, October 21, 2018,; and “Ethiopia: Release of human rights defender welcome but end to arbitrary detentions must follow,” October 18, 2018,

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