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}}



Yemen: AQAP-linked media unit says AQAP does not target Abyan’s tribes; AQAP fighters detonate IED targeting STC-backed forces in Abyan; Houthi forces arrest scores of peaceful protesters; STC media reports that STC-backed forces raid AQAP camp; AQAP fighters detonate three IEDs, killing 5 SDF fighters in Abyan

Somalia: Al Shabaab conducts three more suicide bombings; ATMIS countries support SFG request to delay ATMIS drawdown; Somali forces arrest al Shabaab arms dealer

Yemen Security Brief

An al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-linked media unit said that AQAP does not target the tribes in Abyan, and that AQAP only fights the “apostate mercenaries.”[i]

Likely AQAP fighters detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting STC-backed forces on September 28 near Qarn Amaram, Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen.[ii] The IED killed no STC-backed fighters.

The Houthi movement arrested “scores” of peaceful protesters who were commemorating the September 26th Revolution.[iii] A local reporter told Amnesty International that the Houthis are holding “hundreds” of protesters in Sana’a. Houthi supporters also attacked protesters during the demonstrations on September 26.

Southern Transitional Council (STC) media reported on September 26 that STC-backed forces raided an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula camp and captured ammunition and explosive devices in Abyan governorate, southern Yemen.[iv] STC media said the site was an “AQAP stronghold” after they fled from Wadi Omran.

AQAP fighters detonated three IEDs targeting STC forces in the Hajla region of Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on September 26.[v] The IEDs killed five STC fighters.

Somalia Security Brief

Al Shabaab conducted a double suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack near Dhusamareb town, Galgaduud region, north-central Somalia. One SVBIED detonated along the road leading to the town’s airport and the other near a checkpoint in the town.[vi] Al Shabaab claimed the SVBIEDs were targeting the presidential palace and the checkpoint guarding the palace, indicating security forces interdicted the SVBIEDs before they reached their intended targets.[vii] The Somali president and other Somali Federal Government (SFG) officials are in Dhusamareb rallying support for an offensive against al Shabaab’s remaining havens in central Somalia.[viii]

Al Shabaab conducted an SVBIED attack at a market in Bulo Burde town, Hiiraan region, central Somalia, on September 28.[ix] The attack killed six civilians and injured 15 others.

An al Shabaab suicide bomber targeted a restaurant near a state forces camp in Sayidka junction, Wardhigley district, Mogadishu, on September 29. The Somali police spokesperson said the attack killed at least five people, while local observers said it killed at least seven.[xi] Al Shabaab claimed the attack targeted a gathering of army officers, killing at least 11 people and injuring 18 others.[xii]

African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troop-contributing countries sent a letter to the UN Security Council on September 29 supporting Somalia’s request to delay the scheduled ATMIS drawdown.[xiii] Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, and Burundi co-signed the letter to delay the scheduled September 30 drawdown of 3,000 ATMIS troops.[xiv]

Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency forces (NISA) arrested an al Shabaab arms dealer on September 29. NISA officials said that the dealer was fleeing to al Shabaab–controlled territory and led a network that smuggled military equipment from abroad.[xv]

[i] SITE Intelligence Group, “AQAP-linked Unit Insists ‘Righteous Arrows’ Campaign Does Not Target Abyan Tribes, Assures Independent Retributions For Associates of UAE-backed STC Forces,” September 28, 2023, Available by Subscription At:

[ii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, ”A violent explosion targets security forces in Abyan after controlling the last stronghold of al Qaeda,” September 28, 2023,

[iii] Amnesty International, ”Yemen: Wave of Arrests by Houthi De Facto Authorities Following Demonstrations,” September 29, 2023,

[iv] Dera al Ganoob, ”Five heroes of our forces were martyred while clearing a new stronghold of terrorist elements east of Mudiyah district,” September 26, 2023,

[v] Dera al Ganoob, ”Five heroes of our forces were martyred while clearing a new stronghold of terrorist elements east of Mudiyah district,” September 26, 2023,

[vi] Garowe Online, “Twin al Shabaab morning car bomb attack targets Somalia,” September 28, 2023,

[vii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Claims Double Suicide Bombing in Dhusamareb During Visit of Somali President,” September 28, 2023, available by subscription at

[viii] Jamaal Maxamed, “Photos: R/W the country’s deputy landed in Dhusamareb,” Caasimada, September 28, 2023,

[ix] Hussein Mohamed, @HussienM12, Twitter, September 28, 2023,

[x] Jamaal Maxamed, “A suicide bombing occurred in Buuloburde district,” Caasimada, September 28, 2023,

[xi] Hiraan Online, “5 dead as suicide bomber targets restaurant in Somali capital,” September 29, 2023,; Hussein Mohamed, @HussienM12, Twitter, September 29, 2023,

[xii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Continues Suicide Bomber Deployment, Strikes Close to Presidential Palace in Capital,” September 29, 2023, available by subscription at

[xiii] Goobjoog News, “Regional states supports Somalia’s proposal to halt ATMIS troops drawdown,” September 29, 2023,

[xiv] The East African, “Somalia asks UN Security Council to delay Atmis troop drawdown,” September 22, 2023,

[xv] Goobjoog News, “NISA arrests suspected Al-Shabaab arms smuggler,” September 29, 2023,

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Yemen: Houthis launch drone attack targeting Bahraini Defense Forces on Saudi-Yemen border; Houthi chief negotiator blames Saudi Arabia for undermining peace; UAE Foreign Ministry condemns Houthi attack; Saudi-led Coalition condemns Houthi attack; US State Department condemns Houthi attack

Somalia: Al Shabaab SVBIED attack kills dozens in central Somalia; US airstrike targets regional al Shabaab officials in central Somalia; US defense secretary tours Horn of Africa discussing al Shabaab

Yemen Security Brief

The Houthi movement launched a one-way suicide drone targeting Bahraini Defense Forces near the Saudi-Yemen border on September 25, killing two Bahraini servicemembers.[i]

Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam told Reuters that the Saudi-led Coalition killed 12 Houthi fighters near the Saudi-Yemeni border in August, and emphasized the importance of a “serious peace.”[ii]

The UAE Foreign Ministry said on September 25 that the Houthi drone attack targeting Bahraini forces on September 25 was a “flagrant violation of international laws and norms,” and called on the international community to “take a decisive stance” and “return to a political process.”[iii]

Saudi-led Coalition Spokesperson Turki al Maliki condemned the attack on September 26, adding that the attack was “not consistent with…efforts” to end the war in Yemen.[iv]

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned the Houthi attack against Bahraini forces in a statement on September 26. Miller said that US officials are in contact with their Bahraini counterparts, and added that the attack “threatens the longest period of calm since the war in Yemen began.”[v]

Somalia Security Brief

Al Shabaab conducted a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack targeting a Somali Federal Government checkpoint in Beledweyne, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on September 23.[vi] The attack killed at least 36 people and wounded at least 40 others.[vii] Al Shabaab has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

A likely US-supported airstrike targeted a meeting house for al Shabaab officials near El Bur, Galgudud region, north-central Somalia, on September 23.[viii] US-trained Danab special forces officials said the strike killed the al Shabaab regional finance head.[ix]

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with several African officials across the Horn of Africa on September 24 and 25. Austin met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Djibouti on September 24. Mohamud urged the US to support Somalia’s efforts to lift the UN arms embargo on Somalia.[x] Austin praised Somali forces progress against al Shabaab in central Somalia.[xi] Austin met with the Kenyan defense minister and signed a defense agreement in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 25. The five-year agreement is intended to combat al Shabaab in East Africa by providing US training and financial and technical assistance to Kenyan forces.[xii] The two officials also discussed the need to “maintain momentum” in the fight against al Shabaab in Somalia.[xiii]

[i] Reuters, “Bahrain says two soldiers killed in Houthi drone attack,” September 26, 2023,; @bdf_bahrain, Instagram, September 25, 2023,

[ii] Aziz el Yaakoubi, “Yemen flare-ups jeopardise peace negotiations,” Reuters, September 26, 2023,

[iii] Emirates News Agency, “UAE expresses solidarity with Bahrain and offers condolences over the martyrdom of its soldiers,” September 25, 2023,

[iv] Aziz el Yaakoubi, “Yemen flare-ups jeopardise peace negotiations,” Reuters, September 26, 2023,

[v] US State Department, “Department Press Briefing – September 26, 2023,” September 26, 2023,

[vi] Omar Faruk, “The death toll from a truck bomb at a checkpoint in Somalia rises to 21,” Associated Press, September 24, 2023,; VOA Somali, “An explosion that caused damage in the city of Beledweyne,” September 23, 2023,

[vii] Hiraan Online, “Hiiraan State to resume military operations after deadly al Shabab attack in Beledweyne town,” September 25, 2023,

[viii] Shabelle Media, “Aerial raid kills Al-Shabaab leader in central Somalia – defense ministry,” September 24, 2023,

[ix] Shabelle Media, “Aerial raid kills Al-Shabaab leader in central Somalia – defense ministry.”

[x] The Somali Digest, “Hassan Sheikh and Lloyd Austin discussed Somalia’s security,” September 25, 2023,

[xi] Carla Babb, “Austin Praises ‘Impressive Progress’ in Somali Fight Against al-Shabab,” VOA, September 24, 2023,

[xii] Halbeeg, “US and Kenya ink deal to combat al-Shabaab,” September 26, 2023,

[xiii] Shabelle Media, “US calls for ‘maintaining momentum’ in fight against Al Shabab in Somalia,” September 26, 2023,

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Yemen: Yemeni president discusses peace talks at UNGA; Houthis hold major military parade; Houthi military spokesperson threatens Gulf states; Saudi defense minister acknowledges meeting with Houthi negotiation delegation

Somalia: SFG requests pause in ATMIS drawdown; Somali forces repel al Shabaab efforts to re-establish presence in central Somalia; SNA and international partners kill al Shabaab regional military commander

Yemen Security Brief

Yemeni President Rashad al Alimi warned of “slavery under Houthi presence,” but called for a permanent peace without further “concessions” to the Houthi movement during a UN General Assembly address on September 21.[i] Alimi argued that the Houthis see the current peace process as a “trial” period, and that the Houthis would escalate if they could gain militarily.

The Houthis held a major military parade on September 21 in Sana’a commemorating the Houthi seizure of power in 2014. The Houthi defense minister threatened “foreign forces,” demanding that these forces “leave or…face the volcanoes of Yemeni anger.”[ii] The Houthis also flew an F-5E fighter jet during the military parade.[iii]

Houthi military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Sare’a reiterated that the Houthis will defend “the homeland” if “the aggression” does not fulfill the requirements of peace.[iv]

Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman acknowledged on September 19 the Houthi negotiating delegation’s visit to Riyadh last week. Bin Salman “reaffirmed” Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the peace process under UN supervision.[v]

Somalia Security Brief

The Somali Federal Government requested on September 19 a pause in the planned withdrawal of 3,000 African Union troops by the end of September.[vi] African Union forces were scheduled to transition five bases to Somali forces and close a further four during the drawdown phase.[vii] Somali officials believe the drawdown could create opportunities for al Shabaab while the Somali government is focused on clearing al Shabaab’s remaining havens in central Somalia.[viii]

The Somali National Army (SNA) and local militia cleared al Shabaab staging grounds and crossing points in Jowhar district, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia, from September 16–22.[ix] Somalia’s international partners supported the clearing operation with at least two airstrikes.[x] Al Shabaab had established several footholds in the Jowhar district in early September to resume operations on the east bank of the Shabelle River after Somali forces cleared the group from the area in 2022.[xi]

The SNA with international partner support launched an airstrike targeting an al Shabaab base in Wajid district, Bakool region, southwestern Somalia, on September 22.[xii] The strike killed al Shabaab’s military commander in the Bakool region and seven other militants.

[i] Al Sharq al Awsat “al Alimi for the United Nations podium: No more concessions to the Houthis,” September 21, 2023,

[ii] Abdulrahman al Ansi, “Yemen Houthis flex military muscle in parade as Riyadh seeks ceasefire,” Reuters, September 21, 2023,

[iii] Fabian Hinz, Twitter, September 21, 2023,

[iv] Yahya Sare’a, Twitter, September 21, 2023,

[v] Khalid bin Salman, Twitter, September 19, 2023,

[vi] The Somali Digest, “EXCLUSIVE: Somali Government’s eleventh-hour plea for troop extension raises questions about long-term stability,” September 21, 2023,

[vii] The East African, “Somalia asks UN Security Council to delay ATMIS troop drawdown,” September 22, 2023,

[viii] Mohamed Abdi Ware, @HShPrez2Ware, Twitter, September 21, 2023,

[ix] SONNA, @SONNALIVE, Twitter, September 22, 2023,; Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, September 18, 2023,; Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, September 16, 2023,

[x] Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, September 16, 2023,

[xi] Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, September 7, 2023,

[xii] Somali Ministry of Defense, @MoDSomaliya, Twitter, September 22, 2023,

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Sep '23