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: Department of State staff oppose that certifying Saudi Arabia is attempting to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen; Germany approves arm sale to Saudi Arabia; Emirati-backed forces seize AQAP camp in Abyan governorate; Colombian and Nepalese mercenaries participate in offensive on al Hudaydah city; Saudi air defenses intercept al Houthi ballistic missile in Jizan region, southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab detonates IED and ambushes SNA convoy in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; rival factions of Galmudug state security clash in Adado city, Galgudud region, central Somalia; UN appoints Nicholas Haysom Special Representative for Somalia; clan clashes kill dozens near Ethiopian border in Dac-deer district, Galmudug state; Ugandan opposition MP Bobi Wine returns to Kampala, Uganda under police escort

Yemen Security Brief

Staff members of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo objected to certifying that Saudi Arabia is taking steps to reduce civilian casualties in its operations in Yemen, according to a September 20 Wall Street Journal report. Secretary Pompeo certified to Congress on September 12 that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians resulting from military operations in Yemen. The State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) argued against the certification. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs warned that a lack of certification may impact future military sales to the region. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs was the only group that argued in favor of the certification, according to a leaked memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires the Trump administration to certify that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking steps to end the Yemen conflict and reduce harm to civilians.[1]

Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier approved the delivery of four artillery positioning systems to Saudi Arabia on September 19. A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on January 19 that Germany will stop arms sale to countries involved in the war in Yemen. Spanish Minister of Defense Margarita Robles announced on September 10 that Spain would meet with Saudi Arabia to discuss the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs after temporarily halting the sale.[2]

Hundreds of Colombian and Nepalese mercenaries financed by the United Arab Emirates participated in the offensive on al Hudaydah port city after training in Israel, according to a report from al Khaleej Online.  U.S. House Intelligence Committee sources confirmed that Palestinian commander Mohamed Dahlan, security advisor to Abu Dhabi Crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed, oversaw the program, according to the report. Emirati Brigadier General Ali al Tunaiji, the head of the Saudi-led coalition's Red Sea coast offensive, announced the formal resumption of an offensive to seize al Hudaydah city on September 17.[3]

Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces seized an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) camp in Mudia district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on September 19 after clashing with AQAP militants for three days in the area. Saudi-led coalition aircraft supported the offensive. AQAP militants withdrew to an unspecified area of Shabwah governorate, according to a local al Hizam commander. AQAP claimed to repel an attack from al Hizam forces in Mudia on September 17.[4]

Al Houthi forces fired a ballistic missile at Jizan city, southern Saudi Arabia, on September 19. Saudi Air Defense Forces intercepted the missile. The Saudi military claimed that al Houthi forces have fired 198 missiles at Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Al Shabaab militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting Somali National Army (SNA) forces near Kilometer 60 along the Afgoi-Shalembood road in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on September 20. Al Shabaab militants ambushed the SNA forces after detonating the IED. The attack killed four soldiers.[6]

Troops belonging to Galmudug state security forces clashed with each other in the outskirts of Adado city, Galgudud region, central Somalia on September 20. The clashes killed one soldier and injured two others. Galmudug security officials did not give a reason for the clashes. Galmudug security forces refused to allow some of their colleagues to enter Adado on August 13 due to disputes between state politicians.[7]

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed South African lawyer Nicholas “Fink” Haysom as the UN Special Representative for Somalia on September 12. Haysom will succeed Michael Keating on October 1. Haysom is currently the UN Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan. He previously served as chief legal and constitutional adviser to South African President Nelson Mandela and has led projects to draw up new constitutions in Iraq and Burundi. He has served with the UN in countries including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, East Timor, Sri Lanka, and Colombia.[8]

Clashes between rival clans killed at least 23 people in Dac-deer district, Galmudug state near the Ethiopian border. Ethiopian Liyu police had previously been in control of the district before they recently withdrew. Liyu police failed to consult the local communities or establish an administration before withdrawing, leading the rival clans to clash. The dates of the withdrawal and clashes are unknown. The two clans have been in conflict for several years over access to scarce water and pastures.[9]

Ugandan opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, returned to his home in Kampala, Uganda on September 20. Bobi Wine spent two weeks in the US receiving medical treatment for injuries he sustained during his detention in Ugandan prison in August. Ugandan police erected barricades and closed down roads around Entebbe airport and in opposition strongholds in Kampala prior to Wine’s arrival. Police escorted Wine to his home, where he met crowds of supporters. Wine told the crowd, “the government is determined to keep us slaves in our own country [but] I have come to continue exactly where I stopped. I am going to fight on.” Wine faces treason charges in a trial set to begin in October.[10]

[1] “Top U.S. diplomat backed continuing support for Saudi War in Yemen over objections of staff.” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2018.
View Citations

[2] “Germany approves arms sale to Saudi after Yemen war ban promise,” Reuters, September 19, 2019,; and “Germany approves Saudi arms sale despite Yemen war ban promise, Deutsche Welle, September 20, 2018,; and “Germany stops arms exports to Yemen combatants,” Al Jazeera, January 20, 2018,

[3] “Yemen: mercenaries trained in Israel lead battles of al Hudaydah,” Middle East Monitor, September 20, 2018,; and “Western mercenaries trained in Israel are fighting in al Hudaydah offensive,” Al Khaleej Online, September 19, 2019,

[4] “Several AQAP members killed by Emirati-backed al Hizam Security Forces,” Hour Press, September 19, 2018,

[5] “Coalition intercepts, destroys al Houthi ballistic missile targeting Jizan,” Al Arabiya, September 19, 2018,

[6] “Deadly blast kills 4 soldiers in Somalia,” Mareeg, September 20, 2018,; “Al Shabaab targets IED to Somali military vehicle in Lower A handle region,” Radio Kulmiye, September 20, 2018,; and “Two soldiers killed in landmine attack,” Goobjoog, September 20, 2018,

[7] “Galmudug state forces clash causes death,” AMISOM Media Monitoring, September 20, 2018,

[8] “Mandela’s one-time adviser deployed to Somalia,” The Sunday Times, September 19, 2018,; and “Secretary General appoints Nicholas Haysom of South Africa Special Representative, head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia,” United Nations, September 12, 2018,

[9] “Several feared dead as clan clashes flare up in Dac-deer district in Galmudug,” Goobjoog, September 20, 2018, http://goobjoog.c om/english/inter-clan-conflict-rupture-in-dhac-deer-of-galmudug-region/.

[10] Jason Burke and Alon Mwesigwa, “Uganda’s pop star politician addresses jubilant crowds on return from US,” The Guardian, September 20, 2018,; “Ugandan pop star MP Bobi Wine arrested on arrival,” Al Jazeera, September 20, 2018,; and “Heavy security deployment at Entebbe ahead of Bobi Wine return,” Daily Monitor, September 20, 2018,

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