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: Houthis continue condemnation of United Kingdom; AQAP claims two attacks in Abyan
Somalia: US-trained Danab special forces clear al Shabaab from rural areas in north-central Somalia with likely US drone support; al Shabaab mortars Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief:
The Houthis continued rhetorical attacks against the United Kingdom (UK) after the UK ambassador supported the Yemeni government’s decisions to raise tariffs and introduce other economic measures.[i] The United Kingdom supported the “economic measures” after Houthi drone attacks targeting southern Yemen’s oil infrastructure undermined government oil revenues.[ii] Houthi President Mahdi al Mashaat accused the United States and United Kingdom of “involvement…[in an] economic war” targeting Yemen on January 24.[iii]
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed two attacks targeting Southern Transitional Council (STC)-backed forces in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on January 22-23. AQAP repulsed an attack by STC-backed forces against an AQAP stronghold in Mahfad district on January 22.[iv] AQAP detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting STC-backed forces in Wadi Omran, Mudiyah district, on January 23.[v] The IED killed four soldiers.
Somalia Security Brief:
US-trained Danab special forces with likely US drone support cleared al Shabaab from two rural villages north of Harardhere town, Mudug region, north-central Somalia on January 25.[vi] Somali officials claimed the operation killed 73 al Shabaab members.[vii]
Al Shabaab fired at least seven mortars at the Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu on January 24.[viii] One mortar shell hit a primary school, injuring three people.
[ii] Richard Oppenheim, Twitter, January 20, 2023, https://twitter.com/RJOppenheim/status/1616480936144535585.
[iii] 26 September News Houthi, “President al Mashaat meets with the advisor of the Supreme Political Council, Dr. al Tarab,” January 24, 2023, https://26sep.net/index.php/also/reports/51220-2023-01-24-04-45-33.
[vi] Radio Risaala, “A recent bombing in Mudug caused casualties,” January 25, 2023, https://radiorisaala.com/duqeyn-goordhow-ka-dhacday-gobolka-mudug-khasaaro-ka-dhashay/
[vii] Hiraan Online, “The Somali government said that 73 members of Al-Shabaab were killed in Miroon area today,” January 25, 2023, https://www.hiiraan.com/news/2023/Jan/wararka_maanta25-183469.htm
[viii] Hiraan Online, “Losses caused by mortars hitting parts of Mogadishu,” January 24, 2024, https://www.hiiraan.com/news/2023/Jan/wararka_maanta24-183463.htm
Yemen: Qatari-owned media reports possible changes in the PLC; Houthis object to Saudi “buffer zone” proposal; Houthis accuse UK of “hindering peace efforts”; AQAP targets UAE-backed forces with IED; UAE-backed forces begin counterterrorism operation in Shabwah
Somalia: Al Shabaab targets Mogadishu mayor’s headquarters in latest siege; Somali forces secure a village in southwestern Somalia to use as a launching pad for future operations; Somali forces with international partner air support clear al Shabaab–controlled areas in north-central Somalia; Somali special forces withdraw from key village in north-central Somalia one day after al Shabaab suicide raid targeting their base
Yemen Security Brief:
Qatari-owned, London-based al Araby al Jadeed reported on January 20 that the Saudi-led coalition may choose to downsize the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC).[i] The rumored downsizing would decrease the number of PLC deputies from seven to two, with one deputy representing the north and another representing the south. Al Araby al Jadeed’s sources reported the southern deputy would likely be Southern Transitional Council President Aydarus al Zubaidi, while the north may be represented by either UAE-backed National Resistance Forces leader Tariq Saleh or Ma’rib Governor Sultan al Arada.
The Houthis objected to a Saudi-proposed “border buffer zone” as part of peace negotiations on January 21.[ii] Houthi official media claimed the border zone would “rob Yemen of its rights and wealth.” The Houthis reported that Saudi Arabia seeks a 20km-wide buffer zone.
The Houthis accused the United Kingdom of “hindering peace efforts” on January 21.[iii] Houthi media criticized the British ambassador to Yemen’s support for the Yemeni government’s economic decisions. The Yemeni government’s economic decisions seek to offset a decrease in revenue caused by Houthi drone attacks on oil export facilities in Fall 2022.[iv]
Likely al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a UAE-backed Shabwani Defense Forces convoy in al Majaza, al Rawdha district, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on January 21.[v] The IED wounded four Shabwani Defense fighters.[vi]
The Shabwani Defense Forces began a counterterrorism operation in Nissab district, Shabwah governorate, on January 22.[vii] The operation aims to block AQAP fighters fleeing STC-backed counterterrorism operations in Abyan governorate, according to southern Yemeni media.
Somalia Security Brief:
Five al Shabaab gunmen and one suicide bomber disguised as Somali soldiers targeted the mayor’s headquarters in a siege in Mogadishu on January 22.[viii] Hamar Weyne district, Mogadishu. Turkish-trained Haram’ad special police ended the siege after four hours and displayed the bodies of all the alleged al Shabaab militants.[ix] Al Shabaab claimed the attack killed 34 people, while the government claimed it only killed 6.[x]
Somali National Army (SNA) and Jubbaland State forces peacefully secured Janay Abdalle, Afmadow district, Lower Jubba region, southwestern Somalia, on January 21.[xi] The village is near the midpoint of the road linking the regional capital Kismayo to Afmadow. The Jubbaland Darawish spokesperson said the capture of Janay Abdalle is the beginning of an offensive against al Shabaab in Lower Jubba.[xii] The Somali forces reportedly built a base in the town for upcoming operations in Afmadow district.[xiii] Al Shabaab has controlled the town and surrounding area since 2020.
Somali special forces, Galmudug State forces, and local militia, with international partner air support, cleared several villages in Harardhere district, Mudug region, north-central Somalia, on January 23.[xiv] The operation reportedly cleared five villages and killed at least 40 al Shabaab militants.
US-trained Danab special forces and Turkish-trained Gorgor special forces withdrew from Gal’ad, El Dheere district, north-central Somalia, on January 21, following a large-scale al Shabaab suicide raid targeting their bases on January 20.[xv] The forces re-established new bases near the Middle Shabelle-Galgudud regional border.[xvi]
[i] Al Araby al Jadeed, “Yemen: Discussions About Downsizing the Members of the Leadership Council and Changing the Government,” January 20, 2023, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%86%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%B4%D8%A3%D9%86-%D8%AA%D9%82%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B5-%D8%A3%D8%B9%D8%B6%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D9%88%D8%AA%D8%BA%D9%8A%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A.
[iv] Jacob al Muaber and David Hessen, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 4, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 4, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-november-4-2022.
[vii] SMA News, “A military operation against terrorist elements in Shabwah,” January 22, 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/318862/.
[viii] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “Somalia: Deadly Al-Shabab siege at Mogadishu mayor's office leaves six dead,” Caasimada, January 23, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/somalia-deadly-al-shabab-siege-at-mogadishu-mayors-office-leaves-six-dead/
[ix] Somali National Television, @SNTVnews1, Twitter, January 22, 2023, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1617182225371365378?s=20&t=S-myglQo1STitzFr47F1CA
[x] SITE Intelligence Group, “[UPDATE 2] Shabaab "Special Forces" Storm Mogadishu Administrative HQ, Single Fighter Claims 16 Dead at His Hands Alone,” January 22, 2023, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com
[xi] Radio Dalsan, “The army and the Jubbaland forces have taken over an area where al Shabaab was located,” January 21, 2023, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/ciidanka-xoogga-iyo-kuwa-jubbaland-oo-la-wareegay-degaan-ay-ku-sugnaayeen-al-shabaab/
[xii] Guuleed Muuse, “Jubbaland carried out the implementation of Hassan Sheikh’s warplan,” Caasimada, January 22, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/sawirro-jubbaland-oo-ku-dhaqaaqday-fulinta-qorshaha-dagaal-ee-xasan-sheekh/
[xiii] Guuleed Muuse, “Jubbaland carried out the implementation of Hassan Sheikh’s warplan.”
[xiv] Guuleed Muuse, “An attack was carried out on a base where al Shabaab was located and many members killed,” Caasimada, January 23, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/weerar-lagu-qaaday-saldhig-ay-ku-sugnaayeen-shabaab-oo-xubno-badan-lagu-dilay/; Radio Risaala, “A bombardment took place on the outskirts of Harardhere, the forces took over new areas,” January 23, 2023, https://radiorisaala.com/duqeymo-ka-dhacay-duleedka-xarardheere-ciidamada-oo-degaano-cusub-la-wareegay/; Radio Risaala, “Operations in areas of Hiraan and Mudug regions,” January 23, 2023, https://radiorisaala.com/howlgallo-ka-socda-degaano-ka-kala-tirsan-gobolada-hiiraan-mudug/
[xv] Jamaal Maxamed, “Government forces have withdrawn from Galcad district,” Caasimada, January 21, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/xog-ciidamada-dowladda-oo-isaga-soo-baxay-degmada-galcad/; Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – January 20, 2023,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, January 20, 2023, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review
[xvi] Qiraat Somali, “Army units withdraw from Galcad, a day after al Shabaab attacked it,” January 21, 2023, https://www.qiraatsomali.com/%d9%88%d8%ad%d8%af%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ac%d9%8a%d8%b4-%d8%aa%d9%86%d8%b3%d8%ad%d8%a8-%d9%85%d9%86-%d8%ba%d9%84%d8%b9%d8%af-%d8%a8%d8%b9%d8%af-%d9%8a%d9%88%d9%85-%d9%85%d9%86-%d9%87%d8%ac/
Yemen: AQAP and Houthis complete prisoner exchange; AQAP detonates two IEDs targeting STC-backed forces; STC-backed forces dismantle AQAP IED; Houthis issue orders to media to avoid “offending” Saudi Arabia
Somalia: Al Shabaab suicide raid in north-central Somalia kills deputy commander of US-trained forces; Somali forces clear al Shabaab haven in the Shabelle River valley in south-central Somalia; local militia pre-emptively attack al Shabaab gathering in central Somalia
Yemen Security Brief:
A Yemeni news outlet reported on January 19 that the Houthis and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) completed a prisoner exchange deal in January 2023.[i] The Houthis exchanged 17 AQAP members for nine Houthi fighters.
AQAP fighters detonated two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting the Southern Transitional Council (STC)-backed forces in Wadi Omran, Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on January 18.[ii] The attack killed a battalion commander in the STC-backed 6th Support and Reinforcement Brigade.[iii] AQAP claimed the attack killed eight other STC-backed fighters, while southern Yemeni media reported the attack killed only two other STC-backed fighters.
The STC-backed Security Belt Forces in Abyan dismantled a likely AQAP IED in the Salbat al Khadira area between Mudiyah and Lawdar districts, Abyan governorate, on January 20.[iv]
Northern Yemen-focused media outlet al Mashhad al Yemeni reported on January 20 that the Houthis issued orders to pro-Houthi media and activists to avoid “offending” Saudi Arabia after the Omani visit to Sana’a during the week of January 9.
Somalia Security Brief:
Al Shabaab conducted a complex suicide raid targeting a US-trained Danab forces base in Gal’ad, El Dheere district, Galgudud region, north-central Somalia, on January 20. The attack killed the deputy commander of the Danab forces.[v] Al Shabaab and the SFG both claimed to kill over 100 of each other’s troops in the fighting.[vi] Al Shabaab also claimed to steal 45 Danab vehicles from the base.[vii]
Somali government and local militia forces cleared an al Shabaab gathering near Dhagahow, Bal’ad district, Middle Shabelle, south-central Somalia, on January 19.[viii] Somali officials claimed the operation killed at least 49 militants and destroyed an anti-aircraft cannon. Al Shabaab previously launched a suicide raid targeting the nearby base in Hawadley on January 17.[ix]
Local militia preemptively attacked an al Shabaab gathering near Beer Haano, Beledweyne district, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on January 19.[x] Reinforcements from Beledweyne joined the fighting. Al Shabaab claimed to kill two soldiers and injure five others in the area.[xi]
[v] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “Al-Shabab launches surprise attack on Somali military base,” Caasimada, January 20, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/al-shabab-launches-surprise-attack-on-somali-military-base/
[vi] Puntland Post, “Galgudud: Al Shabaab attacked a military base and killed a commander,” January 20, 2023, https://puntlandpost.net/2023/01/20/galgaduud-al-shaab-oo-weerar-ku-qaaday-saldhigyo-ciidan-iyo-taliye-ku-dhintay/; SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Claims Over 159 Killed in Raid on Danab Special Forces Base in Galguduud,” January 20, 2022, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com
[vii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Claims Over 159 Killed in Raid on Danab Special Forces Base in Galguduud.”
[viii] Horseed Media, “The Federal Government said it killed 49 members of al Shabaab in the Middle Shabelle region,” January 19, 2023, https://horseedmedia.net/dowladda-federaalka-oo-sheegtay-in-ay-49-ka-tirsan-al-shabaab-ku-dishay-gobalka-shabeellaha-dhexe-376978
[ix] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – January 18, 2023,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, January 20, 2023, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-january-18-2023
[x] Radio Dalsan, “A war between Ma’awisley and al Shabaab in an area under Beledweyne,” January 19, 2023, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/dgaaal-u-dhexeeya-macwiisleyda-iyo-al-shabaab-oo-ka-socda-degaan-hoostaga-baladweyne/
[xi] Calamada, “Explosives set vehicles on fire in Lower Shabelle,” January 19, 2023, https://calamada.com/qaraxyo-gaadiid-lagu-gubay-oo-ka-dhacay-duleedka-muqdisho-sh-hoose/