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.{{authorBox.message}}

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Yemen: Houthi delegation travels to Amman for talks on reopening Taiz roads; Saudi deputy defense minister meets with key US officials in Washington, D.C.

Somalia: Al Shabaab raids an SNA checkpoint in southern Somalia; SNA captures an al Shabaab officer in southern Somalia; al Shabaab IED kills SNA soldiers in southern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief:

A Houthi delegation led by Yahya Abdullah al Razami arrived in Amman, Jordan for discussions with a Yemeni government delegation led by Islah member Abdul Karim Sharaf Shaiban on reopening roads around Taiz city, southwestern Yemen.[i] Razami is reportedly close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).[ii]

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman continued meetings with key US officials in Washington, D.C. on May 20-21. Bin Salman met US Special Envoy to Yemen Timothy Lenderking and discussed the importance of securing port revenues in Hudaydah, reopening roads in Taiz, and “engaging” with peace proposals on May 20.[iii] Bin Salman also discussed US-Saudi relations with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on May 20.[iv] Bin Salman, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman discussed Yemen, Ukraine, and US-Saudi relations on May 21.[v] Bin Salman and his delegation also met with the US national security advisor on May 18.[vi]

Somalia Security Brief:

Al Shabaab raided a Somali National Army (SNA) checkpoint in Bal’ad, Middle Shabelle region, south-central Somalia, on May 21.[vii] Al Shabaab killed at least seven soldiers. Al Shabaab militants disguised themselves as civilians and arrived at the checkpoint in a civilian vehicle.

The SNA claimed to capture the head of al Shabaab in Marka in Marka town, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on May 22.[viii]

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting SNA soldiers in Afgoi district, Lower Shabelle region, southern Somalia, on May 21.[ix] The IED killed two soldiers.


[i] Mahra Post, “A Houthi team leaves Sana’a to participate in Jordan’s consultations on opening Taiz ports,” May 22, 2022, https://almahrahpost.com/news/31182.

[ii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “Its president leads the most powerful combat battalions.. a Houthi military committee leaves Sana’a for Amman,” May 22, 2022, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/231862.

[iii] Khalid bin Salman, Twitter, May 21, 2022, https://twitter.com/kbsalsaud/status/1527864713656340481?s=20&t=qzlawyw2quzr0q2Efj2UwA.

[iv] Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, “Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Meets Secretary Austin, Chairs Joint Strategic Planning Committee,” May 21, 2022, https://www.saudiembassy.net/news/saudi-deputy-defense-minister-meets-secretary-austin-chairs-joint-strategic-planning-committee.

[v] Wendy Sherman, Twitter, May 21, 2022, https://twitter.com/DeputySecState/status/1528001437598359552?s=20&t=-KXc9EBOp1bhFl789M-MrA.

[vi] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – May 18, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, May 18, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-may-18-2022.

[vii] Goobjoog News, “Al Shabaab kills at least seven soldiers in Bal’ad,” May 21, 2022, https://goobjoog.com/english/al-shabaab-kills-at-least-six-soldiers-in-balad/ ; Radio Daslan, “Details: attack on government soldiers in Middle Shabelle,” May 21, 2022, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/faah-faahin-weerar-lagu-dilay-ciidamo-ka-tirsan-dowladda-oo-ka-dhacay-sh-dhexe/.

[viii] Goobjoog News, “SNA nabs al Shabaab mastermind Marka, recovers explosives,” May 22, 2022, https://goobjoog.com/english/sna-nabs-al-shabaab-mastermind-in-marka-recovers-explosives/ ; Horseed Media, “Al Shabaab bombing chief is arrested in Marka,” May 22, 2022, https://horseedmedia.net/2022/05/22/madaxii-qaraxyada-al-shabaab-ee-marka-oo-howlgal-lagu-qabtay/.

[ix] Calamada, “Read various reports of officers and soldiers killed and wounded ,” May 21, 2022, https://calamada.com/akhriso-weeraro-kala-duwan-oo-saraakiil-iyo-askar-dhimasho-iyo-dhaawac-ay-ku-noqdeen/.

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Yemen: Suspected Houthi fighters attempt to seize sailboat near Hudaydah; STC and tribal forces refuse government military unit access to district in southern Yemen

Somalia: Gorgor secures villages in central Somalia; al Shabaab attempts to assassinate prominent Somali politician in Mogadishu; report reveals US-trained forces accidentally killed 22 civilians during infighting in northern Somalia in December 2021

Yemen Security Brief:

Suspected Houthi fighters may have attempted to seize a Hong Kong-flagged racing sailboat off the coast of Hudaydah, western Yemen, on May 19.[i] The fighters were likely not acting under orders from the Houthi movement. Key Houthi leader Muhammad Ali al Houthi denied responsibility for the attack on the sailboat.[ii]

Tribal forces and the Southern Transitional Council (STC)-aligned 111th Brigade refused to allow the Yemeni units under the Abyan Axis to enter Ahwar district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen.[iii]

Somalia Security Brief:

Turkish-trained Gorgor special forces secured villages in Beledweyne district, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on May 19.[iv] Gorgor destroyed al Shabaab courts and bases in villages located between Beledweyne and Mataban. Al Shabaab left the villages before the security forces entered.

Al Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device attempting to assassinate Somali politician Abdullahi Sheikh Hassan in Wadajir district, Mogadishu, on May 20.[v] Hassan survived the explosion and a local hospital is treating him.[vi] Al Shabaab militants targeted Hassan as he was leaving a mosque after Friday prayers.

Vice World News reported that the US-trained Puntland Security Forces (PSF) accidentally killed 22 civilians using US-supplied mortars during infighting in Bossaso, Bari region, northern Somalia, in December 2021.[vii] The Vice report said the mortars were for training, but that the PSF deployed them “wildly” and inaccurately. The Puntland president sparked the infighting when he attempted to dismiss the PSF commander and integrate the PSF as part of the regular state forces.[viii] Navy Seals mentor and train the US-created paramilitary force to target Islamic State and al Shabaab militants operating in the mountains of northern Somalia.


[i] Jon Gambrell and Isabel Debre, “Famed racing sailboat attacked by gunmen off war-torn Yemen,” Associated Press, May 20, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-united-kingdom-dubai-arab-emirates-7d6930151eeadf58d9d1708dd47762ef.

[ii] Muhammad Ali al Houthi, Twitter, May 19, 2022, https://twitter.com/Moh_Alhouthi/status/1527360427793223680?s=20&t=ib_W4w7FHK3lxBldUgNvDw.

[iii] SMA News, “The military leadership of the Southern Resistance in Ahwar refused to keep Zamki militias in the district,” May 19, 2022, 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/281748/; and 26Sep ROYG, “A joint security force from the Abyan axis carries out a field descent to Ahwar with the aim of securing the directorate and the international line,” May 18, 2022, https://www.26sepnews.net/2022/05/18/1-9121/.

[iv] Radio Risaala, “Gorgor forces seize territory from al Shabaab,” May 19, 2022, https://radiorisaala.com/256269-2/.

[v] SNTV News, Twitter, May 20, 2022, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1527623798463373314?s=20&t=TUfGhC9H4iUB4V03yzErAQ.

[vi] Ali Muhiyaddiin, ‘Prominent Somali politician killed in Mogadishu blast,” Caasimada, May 20, 2022, https://www.caasimada.net/siyaasi-caan-ah-oo-qarax-lagula-eegtay-muqdisho/.

[vii] Amanda Sperber, “Revealed: CIA-Trained Militia Used US-Made Weapons in Deadly Attack,” Vice Global News, May 20, 2022, https://www.vice.com/amp/en/article/5dg7wn/puntland-security-force-somalia-cia.

[viii] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – December 3, 2021,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, December 3, 2021, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-december-3-2021.

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Yemen: US secretary of state meets with Yemeni foreign minister; high-level Saudi delegation meets with US national security advisor; UN special envoy to Yemen provides an update on UN-brokered truce in Yemen

Somalia: Security forces recapture base in southern Somalia overran by al Shabaab in early May; SNA claims to destroy a courthouse and bases in al Shabaab-controlled southwestern Somalia; Kenyan police arrest al Shabaab members in northeastern Kenya; al Shabaab mortars state forces’ base in northern Somalia

Yemen Security Brief:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak in Washington, DC to discuss Yemen’s UN-brokered truce on May 17.[i] Blinken emphasized the importance of reopening roads around Taiz, southwestern Yemen, a key condition of the truce. Bin Mubarak accused the Houthis of blocking the reopening of roads in Taiz.[ii]

A high-level Saudi delegation including the Saudi deputy defense minister and Saudi ambassador to Yemen met with the US national security advisor in Washington, DC on May 18.[iii] The two parties discussed Yemen’s truce, global economic resilience, and the US-Saudi partnership. Saudi state media did not mention a discussion of global economic resilience.[iv] US-Saudi relations have been strained as oil prices rise during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.[v] 

The UN special envoy to Yemen provided an update on the UN-brokered truce in Yemen.[vi] He confirmed the Yemeni government allowed 11 of 18 fuel ships required under the truce to enter Hudaydah’s port. The envoy said the Yemeni government also appointed a delegation to attend talks with the Houthis in Amman, Jordan to discuss reopening roads in Taiz. The Houthis have not appointed a delegation.

Somalia Security Brief:

Somali National Army (SNA) and Burundian African Union Transition Mission in Somalia forces recaptured their base in El Baraf, Jowhar district, Middle Shabelle, southern Somalia, on May 17.[vii] Security forces mortared the base before using helicopters to airlift troops into the base.[viii] Al Shabaab militants overran the base on May 3 and killed dozens of Burundian soldiers.[ix]

SNA forces claimed to destroy an al Shabaab courthouse and several bases in southern Bay region, southwestern Somalia, on May 18.[x] SNA commanders said troops destroyed a courthouse and several bases near Moodo-Moodo, Baidoa district; Bula Fulay, Burhakaba district; and Rama Addey, Dinsoor district. Al Shabaab has controlled areas of Bula Fulay district for years and published photos of Eid al Fitr celebrations in Bula Fulay district on May 6.[xi]

Kenyan police arrested at least six al Shabaab militants in Mandera town, Mandera County, northeastern Kenya, on May 17. The police acted on a tip from the public.[xii]

Al Shabaab mortared a Puntland State forces base in Galgala, Bossaso district, Bari region, northern Somalia, on May 17.[xiii] Al Shabaab claims the attack wounded eight soldiers, though independent media initially reported one injured soldier.[xiv]


[i] US Department of State, “Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Yemen Foreign Minister Bin Mubarak,” May 17, 2022, https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-meeting-with-yemen-foreign-minister-bin-mubarak/.

[ii] Al Masdar Online, “Foreign Minister during his meeting with his American counterpart: The Houthi militia is procrastinating in implementing its commitments related to lifting the siege on the city of Taiz,” May 18, 2022, https://almasdaronline.com/articles/251932

[iii] The White House, “ Readout from NSC Spokesperson Adrienne Watson on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s Meeting with Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman,” May 17, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/17/readout-from-nsc-spokesperson-adrienne-watson-on-national-security-advisor-jake-sullivans-meeting-with-saudi-vice-minister-of-defense-khalid-bin-salman/.

[iv] Saudi Press Agency, “By order of the Crown Prince … Deputy Defense Minister arrived in Washington on an official visit and met with US National Security Advisor,” May 18, 2022, https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=fa&newsid=2354961.

[v] Martin Chulov, “Biden rebuffed as US relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE hit new low,” The Guardian, April 3, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/03/us-relations-saudi-arabia-uae-oil-crisis.

[vi] UN Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, “Special Envoy’s Remarks to the Press Following Closed Consultations with the Security Council,” May 17, 2022, https://osesgy.unmissions.org/special-envoy%E2%80%99s-remarks-press-following-closed-consultations-security-council.

[vii] SONNA, “Somali, AU forces recapture El-Baraf base in Middle Shabelle region,” May 17, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/05/17/somali-au-forces-recapture-el-baraf-base-in-middle-shabelle-region/.

[viii] Istar Abdi Yusuf, “Burundian forces retake El-Baraf,” Caasimada, May 17, 2022, https://www.caasimada.net/ciidamada-burundi-oo-dib-ula-wareegay-ceel-baraf/.

[ix] Christopher Muth and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – May 4, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, May 4, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-may-4-2022.

[x] Radio Risaala, “Government forces seize areas in Bay region,” May 18, 2022, https://radiorisaala.com/ciidamada-dowladda-oo-la-wareegay-degaano-katirsan-gobolka-baay/.

[xi] Calamada, “Pictures of celebration in Bulo Fulay,” May 6, 2022, https://calamada.com/sawirrada-sida-looga-ciiday-buulofulaay/.

[xii] Halbeeg, “Kenya arrests six al Shabaab suspects in Mandera,” May 18, 2022, https://en.halbeeg.com/2022/05/18/kenya-arrests-six-al-shabaab-suspects-in-mandera/.

[xiii] Puntland Post, “Al-Shabaab launches mortar attack on Puntland military base in Galgala,” May 17, 2022, https://puntlandpost.net/2022/05/17/al-shabaab-oo-weerar-hoobiyaal-ah-ku-qaadday-saldhiga-ciidamada-puntland-ee-galgala/.

[xiv] Radio al Furqan, “Soldiers Killed in Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle,” May 17, 2022, https://radioalfurqaan.com/2022/05/howlgallo-askar-lagu-dilay-oo-ka-dhacay-muqdisho-iyo-shabeellaha-hoose/.

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