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: UAE ceases participation in US-led Combined Maritime Forces; Houthi forces launch simultaneous ground and ballistic missile attack in Shabwa; 2nd Military Region commander visits UAE
Somalia: US-trained special forces with US drone support clash with al Shabaab militants in area of southern Somalia where US recently sanctioned al Shabaab commanders
Yemen Security Brief
The UAE said on May 31 that it was “not participating” in the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which is headquartered at the US Navy’s base in Bahrain and focuses on counterterrorism and counter-piracy.[i] The UAE said it remained a part of the CMF, however. The UAE also added that reports that the Emirati Navy stopped participating due to Emirati frustrations stemming from a lack of US response to Iranian tanker seizures were a “mischaracterization” of events. The UAE did not offer a reason for ceasing to participate in the CMF.
Houthi forces launched a ballistic missile targeting the 5th Shabwani Defense Brigade in an effort to disrupt the 5th Brigade’s response to a Houthi ground assault on May 31.[ii] The Houthis fired the ballistic missile as a ground assault began against the 5th Brigade in Markah al Alya, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen.
Second Military Region Commander Maj. Gen. Fayez al Tamimi traveled to the UAE to meet with Emirati officials to discuss “the 2nd Military Region and the conditions within its” area of responsibility on June 1.[iii]
Somalia Security Brief
US-trained Danab special forces supported by US Africa Command drones clashed with al Shabaab militants near Wayanta, Kismayo district, Lower Jubba region, southern Somalia, on June 1.[iv] AFRICOM conducted a self-defense drone strike after Danab had engaged al Shabaab militants that killed at least three al Shabaab militants.[v] The US sanctioned three al Shabaab commanders and officials in the Wayanta area on May 24.[vi] The individuals have organized attacks on nearby bases and run a prison holding at least 80 civilians.
[i] Lisa Barrington, “UAE says it has stopped taking part in US-led Gulf maritime coalition,” Reuters, May 31, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/uae-says-it-withdrew-us-led-maritime-coalition-two-months-ago-2023-05-31/.
[ii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “Houthi ballistic missile attack on Shabwa Defense,” May 31, 2023, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/256162.
[iii] Mahra Post, “The UAE summons the commander of the Second Military Region. What is behind the invitation,” June 1, 2023, https://almahrahpost.com/news/37963.
[iv] Somali National TV, @sntvnews1, June 2, 2023, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1664603504177037313?s=20.
[v] US Africa Command, “U.S. forces engage insurgents in support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” June 2, 2023, https://www.africom.mil/pressrelease/35214/us-forces-engage-insurgents-in-support-of-the-federal-government-of-somalia.
[vi] US Department of Treasury, “Treasury Designates Terror Operatives and Illicit Charcoal Smugglers in Somalia,” May 24, 2023, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1499.
Yemen: Southern media reports 3rd Military Region deploys artillery to Wadi Hadramawt to support 1st Military region; Yemeni president meets with Hadramawt notable; STC vice president meets with two Hadrami tribes
Somalia: Al Shabaab launches large-scale attack targeting SNA base in recently liberated village in central Somalia; AU, SFG, and US conduct operations to clear remaining al Shabaab militants that overran AU base in southern Somalia on May 26; Somali forces clear al Shabaab hideouts near recently-liberated areas of central Somalia
Yemen Security Brief
Southern media outlet Aden Hura reported on May 29 that the Ma’rib province-based 3rd Military Region deployed artillery to reinforce the 1st Military Region in Seiyun, Hadramawt governorate, southern Yemen.[i] Aden Hura claimed the deployment is a response to increased tensions between the 1st Military Region and Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Hadramawt.
Yemeni President Rashad al Alimi met with the first undersecretary of Hadramawt governorate in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 27 to discuss government services and security in Hadramawt.[ii]
STC Vice President Ahmed Saeed bin Breik met with delegations from the Awamer and Nahd tribes in Mukalla, Hadramawt governorate, southern Yemen, in two separate meetings on May 27.[iii] Bin Breik shared the “political and national gains achieved by the STC” with the tribal delegations. He also highlighted the importance of tribes in society.
Somalia Security Brief
Al Shabaab launched a large-scale attack targeting the Somali National Army (SNA) base near Masgaway, El Dheere district, Galgudud region, central Somalia, on May 30. Government media officials claimed that the SNA and local militia repelled the attack and killed at least 30 militants after receiving a tip from locals that put them on alert.[iv] Al Shabaab claimed to overrun the base and kill 73 soldiers.[v] Neither side has provided photographic evidence to support their claims.
The African Union and Somali Federal Government said that on May 30, a joint SNA-African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) force cleared the remnants of the al Shabaab force that overran the African Union base in Bulo Mareer, Marka district, Lower Shabelle, southern Somalia, on May 26.[vi] ATMIS said the force killed several militants and retrieved looted supplies.[vii] United States Africa Command also claimed it launched drone strikes targeting al Shabaab militants retreating from the ATMIS base with looted supplies on May 26.[viii] It is unclear if counterterrorism forces have returned to Bulo Mareer. Video from May 28 showed that al Shabaab was still in control of the base and town.[ix]
Somali forces cleared rural areas near Gal’ad, El Dheere district, Galgudud region, central Somalia, on May 29.[x] Somali soldiers killed eight militants and captured two commanders.
[i] Aden Hura, “Military reinforcements from Ma’rib towards Wadi Hadramawt,” May 29, 2023, https://www.aden-hura.com/news/42976.
[ii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “President al Alimi meets with the head of the Hadramawt Conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and the latter raises the demand of the Hadrami delegation,” May 27, 2023, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/255950.
[iii] SMA News, “Representative Bin Breik Meets a Delegation of Elders, Sheikhs, and Muqadamah of the Nahd tribes in the Hadramawt,” May 27, 2023, https://smanews.org/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b1%d8%a6%d9%8a%d8%b3%d9%8a%d8%a9/337613/; SMA News, “Representative Bin Breik meets a delegation of notables and sheikhs of the Awamer tribes in Hadramawt,” May 27, 2023, https://smanews.org/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ac%d9%86%d9%88%d8%a8-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b9%d8%b1%d8%a8%d9%8a/337639/.
[iv] Somali National TV, @sntvnews1, Twitter, May 30, 2023, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1663474339453206531?s=20
[v] SITE Intelligence Group, “Just Days After Major Attack on Ugandan Troops in Lower Shabelle, Shabaab Claims 73+ Somali Soldiers Killed in Galguduud,” May 30, 2023, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com
[vi] Somali National TV, @sntvnews1, Twitter, May 29, 2023, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1663475857816444931?s=20; Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – May 26, 2023,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, May 26, 2023, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-may-26-2023
[vii] ATMIS, @ATMIS_Somalia, Twitter, May 30, 2023, https://twitter.com/ATMIS_Somalia/status/1663397592116371457?s=20
[viii] United States AFRICOM, “U.S. forces engage insurgents in support of the Federal Government of Somalia,” May 27, 2023, https://www.africom.mil/pressrelease/35213/us-forces-engage-insurgents-in-support-of-the-federal-government-of-somalia
[ix] Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, May 29, 2023, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1663120910960787456?s=20
[x] Garowe Online, @GaroweOnline, Twitter, May 29, 2023, https://twitter.com/GaroweOnline/status/1663183637771108354?s=20
The Gulf of Aden Security Review will begin publishing twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays beginning Tuesday, May 30
Yemen: Hadrami leaders conclude two-day conference in Riyadh; PLC member meets with US ambassador to Yemen
Somalia: Al Shabaab complex suicide attack overruns Ugandan African Union base in southern Somalia; Somali police forces claim to disrupt al Shabaab suicide attack in central Somalia; Somali security forces seize al Shabaab weapons and explosives in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief
Political and tribal leaders from Hadramout governorate concluded a two-day conference held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 25.[i] Hadrami leaders had been discussing efforts to have an independent Hadrami delegation involved in negotiations with the Houthis in recent weeks due to fears the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council is dominating southern Yemeni politics and attempting to diminish Hadrami rights of self-determination.[ii]
Presidential Leadership Council member Maj. Gen. Sultan al Arada met with US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Fagin on May 25.[iii] The two discussed bilateral relations and measures to enhance US-Yemeni humanitarian and security cooperation.
Somalia Security Brief
Al Shabaab overran the Ugandan African Union base in Bulo Mareer, Marka district, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on May 26. Al Shabaab used four to six suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) to breach the base’s perimeter.[iv] Al Shabaab claimed to kill 137 Ugandan soldiers and released pictures showing captured soldiers and equipment.[v] The African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) acknowledged the attack but did not disclose any casualty counts.[vi] Somali National Army troops and ATMIS air units attacked the retreating al Shabaab attackers after they left the town and claimed to kill at least 30 militants and destroy military vehicles and heavy weaponry that al Shabaab had stolen in the Kurtunwarey district.[vii]
Somali police forces claimed to intercept an al Shabaab suicide bomber moments before an attack in Beledweyne, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on May 25.[viii] Security forces stopped the alleged bomber, causing the bomber to drop their explosives and flee.
Somali security forces seized weapons and explosive material from a truck and warehouse near Bakaro Market, Howl Wadag district, Mogadishu, on May 25.[ix] Security forces published pictures of ammo, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, and improvised explosive devices.
[i] Mahra Post, “Hadrami components conclude their internal consultations in Riyadh,” May 25, 2023, https://almahrahpost.com/news/37841
[ii] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – May 19, 2023,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, May 19, 2023, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-may-19-2023; Mahra Post, “After the transitional escalation, political forces from Hadramout are holding talks in Riyadh,” May 25, 2023, https://almahrahpost.com/news/37827
[iii] Mareb Press, “The American administration informs the member of the Presidency Council, Major General Sultan al Arada, of its position on Yemeni unity,” May 25, 2023, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=192428; Al Thawra, “Al Arada discusses with the US ambassador ways to strengthen partnership and coordination and developments,” May 25, 2023, https://althawra-news.net/news125324.html
[iv] Harun Maruf, “Al-Shabab Storms AU Peacekeeper Base in Southern Somalia,” Voice of America, May 26, 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/al-shabab-storms-au-peacekeeper-base-in-southern-somalia/7110196.html
[v] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Overruns ATMIS Base in Lower Shabelle, Claims 137 Ugandan Troops Killed and Others Taken Prisoner,” May 26, 2023, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com
[vi] African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia, “Statement on Buulo Mareer FOB attack by Al-Shabaab,” May 26, 2023, https://atmis-au.org/statement-on-buulo-mareer-fob-attack-by-al-shabaab
[vii] Somali National TV, @sntvnews1, Twitter, May 26, 2023, https://twitter.com/SONNALIVE/status/1662101015766638592?s=20; African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia, “Statement on Buulo Mareer FOB attack by Al-Shabaab”
[viii] Garowe Online, “Somali forces foil major al Shabaab attack,” May 25, 2023, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-forces-foil-major-al-shabaab-attack
[ix] Somali National TV, @sntvnews1, Twitter, May 26, 2023, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1661764077985701888?s=20