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 exchange accusations for the failure of UN Geneva consultations; Spain announces plans to discuss canceled sale of laser-guided bombs with Saudi Arabia; Yemeni Vice President vows to regain control over al Houthi-held areas in Yemen; al Houthi forces claim to launch ballistic missile at Saudi military camp in Asir, southern Saudi Arabia; Emirati-backed forces continue offensive toward al Hudaydah 

Horn of Africa: Ethiopia-Eritrea border reopens; Hirshabelle, Galmudug, and Puntland politicians criticize state presidents’ suspension of ties with the Somali Federal Government; U.S.-backed Somali special forces raid al Shabaab bases along Afgoi-Bal’ad road near Mogadishu; likely al Shabaab militants kill five charcoal traders in southern Somalia; U.S. State Department expresses concern over crackdown on Ugandan opposition

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi-led coalition spokesperson Colonel Turki al Maliki claimed that the coalition “provided all facilities” for the al Houthi delegation to travel to the September 6 UN talks in Geneva during a press conference on September 11. Maliki called on the UN Security Council to exert pressure on the al Houthi movement to advance the peace process. Al Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik al Houthi claimed the coalition prevented the al Houthi delegation from attending the conference in a September 8 speech. Al Houthi identified Russia, China, or Kuwait as possible neutral countries to facilitate the transportation of the al Houthi delegation to negotiations.[1]

Spanish Minister of Defense Margarita Robles announced that Spain would hold talks with Saudi Arabia over the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs on September 10. Robles said that Spain will discuss with Saudi Arabia ways to resolve their differences amicably based on a bilateral framework. Spain announced that it will cancel the delivery due to concerns that the weapons could be used in the Yemen conflict on September 3. [2]

Hadi government Vice President Lieutenant General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar vowed that Hadi government forces will liberate “every inch” of Yemen from al Houthi control. Al Ahmar made the statement during a meeting with the First Brigade commander Brigadier General Heikal Mohamed Hantaf in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on September 10.[3]

Al Houthi forces claimed to launch a Badr 1 ballistic missile at a Saudi military camp in Asir region, southwestern, Saudi Arabia on September 10. The Saudi-led coalition did not confirm the attack.[4]

Emirati-backed Yemeni forces killed al Houthi commander Abu Hashem, who was reportedly responsible for transporting military personnel and supplies to al Houthi forces in al Hudaydah city, western Yemen, on September 11. Emirati-backed Yemeni forces continued an offensive to seize the main road linking the capital Sana’a to al Hudaydah city. Emirati-backed Yemeni forces resumed an offensive on al Hudaydah on September 7 after the al Houthi delegation did not attend the September 6 UN Geneva consultations.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopia and Eritrea opened two border crossings on their shared border for the first time in 20 years on September 10. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki held a ceremony along the border to celebrate the Ethiopian New Year during which each country’s military began dismantling border trenches. Prime Minister Abiy announced the withdrawal of both countries’ troops from the border and their redeployment to camps as part of de-escalation. Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement ending two decades of hostilities in July.[6]

Senior politicians in Galmudug, Hirshabelle, and Puntland states criticized or disputed the decision of Somalia’s five federal states to suspend ties with the Somali Federal Government (SFG) on September 8. Galmudug’s Speaker of Parliament Ali Gacal Casir and Deputy President Abdi Hashi Arabey dismissed the decision of Galmudug president Ahmed Duale Guelle to sign the joint Kismayo communique suspending ties with the SFG and stated that Guelle did not have the authority to issue such a decree. The Deputy President of Puntland and the Speaker of Parliament of Hirshabelle also criticized their respective state presidents for signing the communique. Hirshabelle President Mohamed Abdi Waare, who signed the joint communique, accused the SFG of “naked intervention” in Hirshabelle’s affairs on September 11.[7]

U.S.-backed Somali “Danab” Special Forces raided al Shabaab bases in Bagdaad and Basra villages, Lower Shabelle region on September 9. Troops freed seven prisoners. The operation is part of a joint campaign by the Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to clear al Shabaab from areas along the highway between Afgoi and Bal’ad towns in Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, respectively.[8]

Likely al Shabaab militants killed five charcoal traders in Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia on September 10. Al Shabaab militants occasionally burn vehicles transporting charcoal in Lower Jubba region. The Somali Federal Government banned the charcoal trade in 2012 due to environmental concerns and its role in funding al Shabaab.  The UN estimates that illicit charcoal trading generates at least 10 million dollars for al Shabaab annually.[9]

The U.S. State Department expressed grave concern on September 10 over reports that Ugandan security forces used excessive force against journalists and lawmakers in Arua, Uganda in August. Ugandan authorities arrested popular opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi, known as “Bobi Wine,” in Arua last month, prompting protests across Uganda. Bobi Wine urged the U.S. government to end military assistance to Uganda during a press conference in Washington D.C. on September 6.[10]


[1] “The Arab coalition provided all facilities for the Houthi delegation to travel to Geneva,” Arab News, September 11, 2018, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1370571; and “Saudi-led coalition spokesman provided all facilities for al Houthi delegation to travel to Geneva, Ma’rib Press, September 11, 2018, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lng=arabic&sid=141815

[2] “Spain to hold talks with Saudi Arabia over bomb sale, after halting it,” Reuters, September 10, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-saudi-arms/spain-to-hold-talks-with-saudi-arabia-over-bomb-sale-after-halting-it-idUSKCN1LQ27N; and “Spain to hold talks with Saudi Arabia on differences over bomb deal: Defense chief,” Press TV, September 11, 2018, https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/09/11/573797/Spain-Defense-Minister-Margarita-Robles-Saudi-Arabia-bomb-deal; and “Spain cancels 9.2 mn euros deal to sell Saudis 400 precision bomb,” Press TV, September 3, 2018, https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/09/03/573114/Spain-saudi-arms-deal.

[3] “Yemen vice president vows to liberate every last inch of Yemen,” Saba News, September 10, 2018, https://www.sabanew.net/viewstory/38260.

[4] “Al Houthi forces claim to hit a Saudi military camp with a ballistic missile,” Saba News, September 10, 2018, https://www.sabanews.net/ar/news507903.htm.

[5] “Yemeni army advances in al Hudaydah, Houthi supply commander killed in battles,” al Arabiya, September 11, 2018, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/09/11/Yemeni-army-advances-in-Hodeidah-Houthi-supply-commander-killed-in-battles.html

[6] “Ethiopia-Eritrea border reopens after 20 years,” CNN, September 11 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-45475876; “Live: Ethiopian, Eritrean troops to be withdrawn from border: Abiy,” Africa News, 11 September 2018, http://www.africanews.com/2018/09/11/ethiopia-eritrea-reopen-border-point-minister/.

[7] “Hirshabelle and Galmudug Speakers denounce resolutions of Kismayo conference,” Hiraan, September 11, 2018, https://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2018/Sept/160045/hirshabelle_and_galmudug_speakers_denounce_resolutions_of_kismayo_conference.aspx; and “State leaders make stiff allegations against central government,” Garowe, September 11, 2018, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-hirshabelle-leader-makes-stiff-allegations-against-central-govt.

[8] Harun Maruf, Twitter post, September 9 2018, 11:35 pm, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1039039699195764737; “Somali Forces Begin Operation Against Al-Shabaab Outside Mogadishu,” Shabelle Media Network, September 11 2018, http://radioshabelle.com/somali-forces-begin-operation-against-al-shabaab-outside-mogadishu/.

[9] “Five charcoal traders killed in Lower Jubba, Somalia,” Goobjoog News, September 11 2018, http://goobjoog.com/english/five-charcoal-traders-killed-in-lower-jubba-somalia/; “Somalia’s illicit charcoal trade threatens security, the environment, and livelihoods,” DW, May 11 2018, https://www.dw.com/en/somalias-illicit-charcoal-trade-threatens-security-the-environment-and-livelihoods/a-43745333.

[10] “Official: US ‘gravely concerned’ by reports of abuse by Ugandan security forces,” Reuters, September 10, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/official-us-gravely-concerned-abuse-reports-uganda-security-forces/4565923.html.

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