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 prevents al Houthi delegation from reaching Geneva consultations; head of U.S. Central Command discusses military and counterterrorism cooperation with Yemeni chief of staff; southern Yemenis continue economic protests against Hadi government and Saudi-led coalition; debris from intercepted al Houthi missile injures 23 civilians

Horn of Africa: Eritrea and Djibouti agree to normalize relations; Eritrean, Somali, and Ethiopian leaders meet in Asmara, Eritrea; al Shabaab abducts 60 elders in central Somalia over clan disputes; al Shabaab kills eight people in Mogadishu shootings; al Shabaab attacks base in Qoryoley, Lower Shabelle region; SNA arrests 32 al Shabaab militants in Marka town, Lower Shabelle region; Kenyan security forces arrest suspected European al Shabaab fighter in Garissa County, Kenya

Yemen Security Brief

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths delayed consultations in Geneva until September 7 because the al Houthi movement’s delegation was unable to leave Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. The al Houthi movement claimed that the Saudi-led coalition, which controls Yemen’s airspace, reneged on promises to allow the al Houthi delegation to return to Sana’a after the consultations and to permit wounded civilians to travel with the delegation to seek care. Saudi media accused the al Houthi movement of attempting to evacuate Iranian and Hezbollah agents. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation arrived in Geneva as scheduled on September 6 and met with Martin Griffiths. Griffiths announced on September 5 that the consultations will focus on establishing a framework for future formal negotiations and confidence-building measures. He also stated that a technical advisory group of Yemeni women will participate in the consultations in addition to the al Houthi and Hadi government delegations.[1]

U.S. Central Command commander General Joseph Votel and Deputy Chief of Mission Ana Escrogima met Yemeni Chief of Staff Major General Taher al Aqili to discuss developing Yemen's coast guard, navy, and special forces on September 5. They also discussed counterterrorism and counter-smuggling cooperation. The U.S. defense attaché to Yemen and U.S. Special Forces commanders met with Hadi government Vice President Ali Mohsen al Ahmar on August 9 to discuss the possibility of resuming American support for Yemeni military and counterterrorism capabilities.[2]

Protesters continued demonstrations in Aden and Hadramawt governorates on September 6 despite the government’s approval of a 30 percent salary increase for civil servants on September 4. Protests began on August 30 in response to a sharp decline in the value of the Yemeni rial. The Transitional Political Council for the South (STC) organized a protest in Aden on September 6 to criticize the Hadi government for corruption and demand an independent southern state. Protesters removed posters of Saudi-led coalition leaders, stepped on an Emirati flag, and chanted anti-coalition slogans in Hadramawt governorate. Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash called the anti-coalition protests disgraceful and emphasized that the UAE will continue its operations in Yemen.[3]

Al Houthi militants fired a Badr 1 ballistic missile at a Saudi National Guard camp in Najran region, southern Saudi Arabia on September 5. An al Houthi official stated the missile hit its target, but Saudi-led coalition Spokesperson Colonel Turki al Maliki stated that Saudi air defense systems intercepted the missile. Debris from the missile injured 23 people, according to al Maliki. Al Houthi forces have launched 187 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Eritrea and Djibouti agreed to normalize relations during a meeting between Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf in Djibouti on September 6. Djibouti and Eritrea broke off ties over a border dispute in 2007. Djibouti petitioned the UN Security Council to help resolve its border dispute with Eritrea in July and argued against lifting sanctions on Eritrea at the time. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo urged Djibouti and Eritrea to make peace during a summit in Asmara, Eritrea on September 5.[5]

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met with Somali President Farmajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy to sign a Joint Cooperation Agreement in Asmara on September 5. The agreement promotes economic, political, cultural, and security cooperation between the three countries. Abiy reopened Ethiopia’s embassy in Asmara on September 6 in a ceremony attended by President Afwerki. Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement on July 9 after 20 years of hostilities. President Farmajo also met with Mohamed Omar Osman, the leader of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), in Asmara during the visit. The ONLF is an ethnic Somali rebel group that fought the Ethiopian government for over two decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed removed the group’s terrorist designation on July 5.[6]

Al Shabaab militants abducted 60 elders in Galgudud region, central Somalia on September 3. Abdullahi Abu Khalid, the al Shabaab governor for Galgudud, claimed that the group kidnapped the local elders after their subclan failed to pay full compensation for five people killed from another clan.[7]

Al Shabaab militants killed six people in Karan district, Mogadishu on September 4. Al Shabaab fired on a motorized rickshaw carrying four Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers, killing the soldiers as well as two civilians. Al Shabaab militants also killed two people in Wardhigley district, Mogadishu on September 4. Al Shabaab claimed the two were a security official and his bodyguard.[8] 

Al Shabaab militants attacked an SNA base in Qoryoley district, Lower Shabelle region on September 4. SNA forces repulsed the attack and killed two militants.[9]

SNA forces arrested 32 al Shabaab militants in Marka town, Lower Shabelle region during operations on September 3 and 4. SNA forces launched an operation to dislodge al Shabaab from Marka and its environs in late August.[10]

Kenyan security forces arrested two al Shabaab suspects in Ijara and Liboi towns, Garissa County, eastern Kenya on September 5. One of the suspects was Kenyan and the other was European. The European was carrying $34,000 U.S. dollars, night-vision cameras, and GPS equipment. The European suspect’s passport had stamps from Iran and Somalia.[11]


[1] “Press Statement of the Special Envoy for Yemen on the Consultations in Geneva,” OSESGY, September 5, 2018,;

“UN Envoy positive before Yemen peace talks- despite no rebels,” Al Jazeera, September 5, 2018,; Ahmad Al-Shemeri, “Al Houthis insist negotiators’ flight to be used for transporting injured Hezbollah men,” Saudi Gazette, September 5, 2018,; Hussain Albukhaiti, Twitter, September 5, 2018,; and “Statement attributable to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen on the Geneva Consultations,” OSEGSY, September 6, 2018,

[2] “Top US general meets Yemen chief of staff,” Agence France Presse, September 5, 2018,; U.S. Embassy in Yemen, Twitter, September 6, 2018,; and “Yemen, US discuss improving Yemeni Coast Guards, Special Forces,” Saba New, September 5, 2018,

[3] “Protests Across Yemen Continue Because of Soaring Prices,” Al Bawaba, September 6, 2018,; “The sons of the capital of Aden confirm their support for the transitional council and their commitment to their choices in restoring the state and fighting corruption,” STC, September 6, 2018,; Ramadan Al Sherbini, “Gargash condemns ‘disgraceful’ anti-coalition acts in Yemen,” Gulf News, September 5, 2018,; and Nadwa Dawsari, Twitter, September 5, 2018,

[4] “23 injured after Saudi Arabian forces intercept Houthi missile fired toward Najran,” Arab News, September 5, 2018,; and “Ballistic missile, Badr 1, targets Saudi National Guard Camp in Najran,” Saba Net,

[5] Daniel Mumbere,” Djibouti, Eritrea agree to normalize ties strained since 2007,” Africa News, September 6, 2018; “Ethiopia, Somalia urge dialogue to resolve Eritrea, Djibouti dispute,” Africa News, September 5, 2018,; and Harun Maruf, Twitter, September 6, 2018,

[6] Addis Getachew, “Horn of Africa trio signs cooperation agreement,” Anadolu Agency, September 5, 2018,; “Ethiopia reopens embassy in Eritrea as relations warm,” Agence France-Presse, September 5, 2018,; Harun Maruf, Twitter, September 6, 2018,; and Daniel Mumbere, “Ethiopia removes ‘terrorist’ label from OLF, ONLF, and Ginbot 7 opposition groups,” Africa News, July 5, 2018,

[7] Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar, “Somali militants kill soldiers, kidnap scores of elders,” Reuters, September 5, 2018,

[8] Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar, “Somali militants kill soldiers, kidnap scores of elders,” Reuters, September 5, 2018,

[9] “Somalia: Militants killed in Qoryoley fighting,” Garowe Online, September 6, 2018,

[10] “Somalia army arrests 32 al-Shabaab militants,” Hiiraan, September 6, 2018,; and 

[11] Stephen Astariko, “Two suspected al-Shabaab accomplices arrested in Garissa,” The Star, September 5, 2018,

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