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: Human Rights Watch documents al Houthi arbitrary detentions and torture; UN rushes aid to villagers living off leaves in northern Yemen; Yemeni foreign minister accuse al Houthi forces of theft of humanitarian aid in Yemen; al Houthi forces claim to fire missiles at southern Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: SNA and AMISOM forces launch operations in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia; Ethiopian government shuts down internet in Addis Ababa; ISIS militants bombed Bakara market in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

A September 25 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report revealed that al Houthi forces in Yemen have taken hostages and committed abuses against people in their custody. HRW documented 16 cases in which al Houthi forces detained civilians unlawfully to extort money from relatives or to exchange them for people held by opposing forces. Al Houthi forces’ treatment of some detainees often amounted to torture. Middle East director at Human Rights Watch Sarah Whitson said that some al Houthi forces exploited their power to make a profit through detention, torture and murder. HRW blamed the Saudi-led coalition and al Houthi forces for committing war violations and human rights abuses with impunity and demanded the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen that investigates human rights violations during the UN General Assembly session on September 24. An August 28 UN report stated that all parties of the Yemen conflict have committed a large number of violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to war crimes.[1]

UN and donor individuals urgently delivered aid to villagers found to be living off leaves partially due to local authorities manipulating aid distribution in Aslam district, Hajjah governorate, northern Yemen, according to the Associated Press. The al Houthi movement controls Aslam. UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock warned that the humanitarian situation in Yemen has significantly deteriorated in recent weeks during a September 21 briefing to the UN Security Council. Lowcock also stated that Yemen is approaching a “tipping point” into widespread famine.[2]

Hadi government Foreign Minister Khalid al Yamani demanded the UN to release reports on the theft of humanitarian aid by al Houthi forces. Al Yamani asserted on September 24 that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait provided up to 50 percent of humanitarian aid to Yemen. Saudi Ambassador to UN Abdullah al Mouallimi blamed the al Houthi movement for causing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He also accused al Houthi authorities of violating international law and violating the will of the Yemeni people during a September 24 speech at the UN General Assembly.[3]

Al Houthi forces claimed to fire Zilzal 1 ballistic missiles at Asir and Jizan regions, southern Saudi Arabia on September 23. Al Houthi forces also fired a Badr 1 ballistic missile at Jizan airport in Jizan region, southern Saudi Arabia on September 22. The Saudi-led coalition spokesperson stated Saudi air defenses intercepted the September 22 missile but did not comment on the September 23 missiles.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali National Army (SNA) troops backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) launched an offensive against al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia on September 24. SNA-AMISOM forces killed 35 al Shabaab militants in Qoryoley town, Lower Shabelle after intercepting al Shabaab forces en route to attack the town. The SNA also began an operation to open roads linking the coastal town of Marka with Mogadishu.[5] 

The Ethiopian government shut down mobile internet networks across Addis Ababa from September 17 to 19 in an effort to quell social unrest. The government, which owns Ethiopia’s sole telecommunications provider, denied reports of the shutdown. Many Ethiopians hoped that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reforms would include ending the government’s longstanding practice of shutting down the internet during security crackdowns.[6]

Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) militants killed a member of the Puntland Presidency Guard in Boosaaso, northern Somalia on September 24. ISIS also claimed a bombing in Bakara market, Mogadishu on September 23 that injured three civilians and two soldiers.[7]

[1] “Yemen: al Houthi hostage taking,” Human Rights Watch, September 25, 2018,; and “UN Rights Council: Renew Yemen inquiry,” Human Rights Watch, September 24, 2018,; and “HRW accuses Yemen rebels of hostage taking, torture,” France 24, September 25, 2018,

[2] “UN rushes aid to hunger stricken Yemeni district,” Associated Press, September 25, 2018,

[3] “Saudi ambassador to UN: Yemen’s crisis is caused by al Houthis,” Al Arabiya, September 25, 2018,

[4] “Saudi soldiers killed and wounded in a missile attack in Asir and Jizan regions,” Saba news, September 23, 2018,; and “The launch of a ballistic missile at Jizan airport,” Saba news, September 22, 2018,; and “Saudi air defenses intercept al Houthi ballistic missile, Saudi Press Agency, September 22, 2018,

[5] Schmuel Yosef Agnon, “Somali National Army (SNA) Kill 35 Al-Shabaab Terrorists in Qoryoley Town, Lower Shabelle,” Intelligence Briefs, September 25 2018,; “AU, Somali forces kill 35 al-Shabaab militants,” Xinhua, September 24 2018,; and “Somali army in major operations to open Mogadishu-Marka roads,” Goobjoob News, September 25 2018,

[6] “Ethiopia Still Tampering with Internet Access - Report,” Ezega, September 23 2018,

[7] “ISIS Claims responsibility for killing Puntland presidency guard,” Puntland Mirror, September 25 2018,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, September 23 2018,

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