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: Taiz governor announces new airport opening; tribesmen in Sana’a demand release of sheikhs imprisoned by Houthis; AQAP targets STC-affiliated forces with IED
Somalia: SNA repels small al Shabaab counterattack on recently cleared area in north-central Somalia; SFG augments its counterterrorism strategy as the fight against al Shabaab escalates
Yemen Security Brief:
Taiz Governor Nabil Shamsan announced the opening of a likely Emirati-built airstrip in Mocha, Taiz governorate, southwestern Yemen, as a new international airport in Yemen.[i] Shamsan said the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) approved the inauguration of the airport, which was “sponsored” by National Resistance Front leader Tariq Saleh. Shamsan suggested the airport would alleviate the “siege” of Taiz.[ii] Houthi media claimed the Emirati military would use the airport, citing a May 2022 report from an Arabic-language open-source intelligence platform.[iii]
Bani Harith tribesmen held an armed gathering in northern Sana’a governorate demanding the release of eight Bani Harith sheikhs on September 21.[iv] Key Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al Houthi reportedly imprisoned the eight sheikhs without charges. The tribesmen demanded the Houthi movement imprison Mohammed Ali al Houthi in response on September 22.[v] The Houthis released seven of the sheikhs on September 23.[vi]
Likely al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting military forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council (STC) near Lawder city, Lawder district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on September 23.[vii] Local media did not specify casualties.
Somalia Security Brief:
Al Shabaab attacked Somali National Army (SNA) forces near Sina Dhaqo, Dhusmareb district, Galgudud region, north-central Somalia, on September 22.[viii] The SNA released pictures of dead militants and claimed to kill 15 al Shabaab fighters while repulsing the attack.[ix] Turkish-trained Gorgor commandos cleared Sina Dhaqo and surrounding areas on September 20.[x]
The Somali Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers announced several efforts to improve the country’s national counterterrorism strategy on September 22.[xi] The plans include strengthening the role of the National Security Council, forming a committee to better coordinate counterterrorism activities, creating a national agency for countering violent extremism, implementing a national strategy to counter money laundering and terrorist financial networks, and encouraging further public uprisings against terrorists.
[i] Nabil Shamsan, Twitter, September 21, 2022, https://twitter.com/Nashamsan/status/1572572517117886465?s=20&t=9AhGK9nBTSfTHAHg9dYXhw; and Vleckie, Twitter, September 21, 2022, https://twitter.com/VleckieHond/status/1572615086073868288?s=20&t=vKwpQ_I2xDLZmxVt6VaELQ.
[ii] Nabil Shamsan, Twitter, September 21, 2022, https://twitter.com/Nashamsan/status/1572615505323638789?s=20&t=9AhGK9nBTSfTHAHg9dYXhw.
[iii] Al Masirah, “Pro-aggression government recognizes establishment of Emirati Military Airport near Bab al Mandeb Straight,” September 22, 2022, https://english.almasirah.net.ye/post/28561/; and Eekad, Youtube, May 21, 2022, “The Emirates is expanding in Yemen… a new airport in Mokha,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npFZ9_gzCls.
[iv] Mareb Press, “The tribes of Bani al Harith in Sana’a mobilize their men and call for armed disapproval in response to the Houthi kidnapping of 8 sheikhs,” September 22, 2022, https://marebpress.net/news_details.php?lang=arabic&sid=187354.
[v] Salman al Maqrami, Twitter, September 22, 2022, https://twitter.com/salmanalmaqrami/status/1573079261652684805?s=20&t=9AhGK9nBTSfTHAHg9dYXhw.
[vi] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “After their release and an apology to them, he witnessed the sheikhs of ‘Bani al Harith’ quarrel and demand the imprisonment of ‘al Houthi’ in the central prison,” September 23, 2022, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/240267.
[viii] SONNA, “SNA killed 15 terrorists who tried to re-take expelled area in Galmudug region,” September 23, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/23/sna-killed-15-terrorists-who-tried-to-re-take-expelled-area-in-galmudug-region/.
[ix] SNTV News, @SNTVNews1, Twitter, September 23, 2022, https://twitter.com/sntvnews1/status/1573312652411117569.
[x] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – September 21, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, September 21, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-september-21-2022.
[xi] Radio Dalsan, “PM Hamze Barre chairs cabinet meeting, offers commitment to anti Shabaab operations,” September 22, 2022, https://www.radiodalsan.com/en/77307/2022/09/pm-hamze-barre-chairs-cabinet-meeting-offers-commitment-to-anti-shabab-operations/; Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, September 22, 2022, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1572922973245538304?s=20&t=7WLh32Vx9l9BrWTE6PU98A.
Yemen: Houthi leader gives major speech on the Houthis’ challenges and priorities; Yemeni president meets with UAE foreign minister in New York; AQAP mortars Yemeni Army base in southern Yemen
Somalia: Al Shabaab and Somali special forces clash in central Somalia’s Hiraan region; Somali special forces secure several villages along the Shabelle River valley in Hiraan; Turkish-trained special forces clear al Shabaab havens in central Somalia’s Galgudud region; US AFRICOM claims September 18 drone strike in support of partner forces in Hiraan
Yemen Security Brief:
Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi gave a speech for the eighth anniversary of the Houthi “revolution” on September 20.[i] Houthi identified confronting the Saudi-led coalition, defeating the “occupation,” achieving full independence, and ending the “siege” of Yemen as “great priorities.” Houthi also highlighted two additional challenges–the impact of the past on Yemen and the “emergence of personal ambition [and] desires to dispense” with major goals. He also called the truce “temporary.”
Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) President Rashad al Alimi met with Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 20.[ii] The two parties discussed Yemen’s truce, Houthi truce violations, and continued Emirati support for the PLC.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) mortared the base of the 5th Infantry Brigade near Mudiyah city, Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on September 20.[iii] The attack caused no casualties.
Somalia Security Brief:
US-trained Danab special forces and Turkish-trained Gorgor commandos clashed with al Shabaab near Samataro, Bulo Burde district, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on September 21. Somali officials claimed al Shabaab mortared government forces in Booco town, causing troops to attack al Shabaab positions two miles west in Samataro.[iv] Al Shabaab said they repulsed the attacks, killing at least 40 troops, including the regional commanders of the Danab and Gorgor forces.[v] Somali officials claimed to kill eight al Shabaab militants in the fighting.[vi] Al Shabaab and residents also reported US drone strikes supported Somali forces.[vii] Somali forces and local militia secured Booco without fighting on September 20.[viii] It was the first time government forces entered Booco in 13 years.
Danab and Gorgor forces secured several villages along the Shabelle River valley in Hiraan region, central Somalia, on September 21.[ix]Al Shabaab claimed to detonate two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting Somali forces near in the area, killing two soldiers.[x]
Gorgor forces cleared Sina Dhaqo and surrounding areas in Dhusamareb district, Galgudud region, central Somalia, on September 20.[xi] Gorgor officials claimed that troops killed at least 10 al Shabaab militants and destroyed several havens. Al Shabaab claimed to detonate an IED targeting Somali forces in the area, killing two soldiers.[xii]
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) claimed a September 18 airstrike targeting al Shabaab militants near Bulo Burde, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on September 21.[xiii] AFRICOM said the strike killed 27 militants and no civilians and helped Somali and African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) forces regain the initiative in days-long fighting over a 25 mile stretch of road connecting Bulo Burde and Yasooman.[xiv] Somali officials claimed Somali troops and local militia killed over 100 al Shabaab militants in the battle for the area.[xv]
[i] Saba (Houthi), “Text of the speech of the Leader of the Revolution on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the 21 September Revolution,” September 20, 2022, https://www.saba.ye/ar/news3203509.htm.
[iv] Radio Mogadishu, The government forces inflicted heavy losses on al Shabaab terrorists,” September 21, 2022, https://radiomuqdisho.so/ciidanka-dowladda-oo-qasaaro-xooggan-gaarsiiyay-argigixisada-al-shabaab/.
[v] SITE Intelligence Group, “Amid Clashes in Central Somalia, Shabaab Claims Over 60 Casualties and Success in Repulsing Offensives,” September 21, 2022, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; Radio al Furqaan, “Details: Heavy fighting that took place today in Booco area in Hiraan region,” September 21, 2022, https://radioalfurqaan.com/2022/09/faahfaahin-dagaal-culus-oo-maanta-ka-dhacay-degaanka-booco-ee-gobolka-hiiraan/.
[vi] Radio Mogadishu, “The government forces inflicted heavy losses on al Shabaab terrorists.”
[vii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Amid Clashes in Central Somalia, Shabaab Claims Over 60 Casualties and Success in Repulsing Offensives;” @MDhaaysane, Twitter, September 21, 2022, https://twitter.com/MDhaaysane/status/1572554225338679299?s=20&t=u9_zFikj7zgacWMdCO--rg.
[viii] Radio Dalsan, “Government forces have taken over an area in Hiran region,” September 20, 2022, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/ciidanka-dowladda-oo-la-wareegay-degaan-ka-tirsan-gobolka-hiiraan/.
[ix] Radio Risaala, “The armed forces have carried out operations in the areas of Hiraan,” September 21, 2022, https://radiorisaala.com/ciidamada-xoogga-dalka-oo-howlgallo-ka-sameeyay-degaano-katirsan-hiiraan/.
[x] SITE Intelligence Group, “Amid Clashes in Central Somalia, Shabaab Claims Over 60 Casualties and Success in Repulsing Offensives.”
[xi] Radio Mogadishu, “The army killed al Shabaab militants in an operation in Galgadud,” September 21, 2022, https://radiomuqdisho.so/ciidanka-xoogga-oo-howl-gallo-ka-dhacay-galguduud-ku-dilay-maleeshiyaad-ka-tirsan-al-shabaab/.
[xii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Amid Clashes in Central Somalia, Shabaab Claims Over 60 Casualties and Success in Repulsing Offensives.”
[xiii] US Africa Command, “Federal Government of Somalia engages terrorists with support from U.S. forces,” September 21, 2022, https://www.africom.mil/pressrelease/34736/federal-government-of-somalia-engages-terrorists-with-support-from-us-forces.
[xiv] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – September 19, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-september-19-2022.
[xv] Goobjoog News, “More than 100 Al-Shabaab militants killed in Hiran region- Somali government,” September 20, 2022, https://goobjoog.com/english/more-than-100-al-shabaab-militants-killed-in-hiran-region-somali-government/.
Yemen: An AQAP IED attack targets STC-backed forces in southern Yemen
Somalia: SNA and Ma’awisley clear al Shabaab from multiple villages in deadly fighting in central Somalia; al Shabaab assassinates local elders in central Somalia; SFG deploys SNA soldiers to central Somalia to clear al Shabaab strongholds in Galgudud region; al Shabaab releases video threatening escalation against SFG and allied clans; NISA forces break up al Shabaab cell in Mogadishu
Yemen Security Brief:
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting the STC-backed 8th Thunderbolt Brigade near Wadi Amran, Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen on September 18.[i] The AQAP IED killed two members of the 8th Thunderbolt Brigade, and wounded ten more, including the brigade commander.[ii]
Somalia Security Brief:
Somali National Army (SNA) forces cleared al Shabaab from several villages east of Bulo Burde town, Hiraan region, central Somalia, between September 16 and 17. The SNA cleared Aborey village, 15 miles northeast of Bulo Burde town, early in the morning of September 17.[iii] The SFG and SNA claimed that the fighting killed between 30 and 43 al Shabaab militants and wounded five SNA soldiers.[iv] SNA and local militia are still attempting to clear al Shabaab from Yasooman village, 20 miles northeast of Bulo Burde town, after initially clashing with al Shabaab the night of September 16.[v] The Somali federal government initially claimed on September 18 that the fighting killed at least 45 al Shabaab militants.[vi] The SNA chief raised the al Shabaab toll to at least 75 militants and claimed anti–al Shabaab forces had captured several others in the still ongoing operation on September 19.[vii] Somali officials have not disclosed any friendly casualties. Local militia soldiers near Yasooman have reportedly beheaded several al Shabaab militants in retaliation for al Shabaab atrocities.[viii] SNA and local militia also secured four other villages southeast of Bulo Burde in the same operation.[ix]
Al Shabaab assassinated three elders with a roadside improvised explosive device near Buqda village, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on September 16.[x] The attack also killed the son of one of the elders and injured several others. Al Shabaab blamed the attack on a US drone strike.[xi] US and Somali officials have not disclosed any drone activity in the area. US-trained Danab forces attacked al Shabaab forces near Buqda for the first time since 2015 on September 14.[xii]
The Somali Federal Government began preparations to secure Elbur on September 17 by deploying hundreds of SNA soldiers and military equipment to Dhusamareb, Galgudud region, central Somalia.[xiii] These forces reportedly secured the Jaw area on September 18, which lies between government-controlled Guriel and Elbur.[xiv] Al Shabaab has controlled Elbur since 2017 and has organized Eid celebrations and drought relief in Elbur town in 2022.[xv]
Al Shabaab threatened to retaliate against anyone working against the group on September 19.[xvi] An al Shabaab spokesperson labeled the clan militias working with the federal government “infidels.” He said al Shabaab will accept Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s declaration of war and see “which one of us is left standing.”[xvii]
The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) arrested ten alleged al Shabaab operatives in Mogadishu on the night of September 15.[xviii] The al Shabaab cell reportedly included hitmen, doctors to treat wounded operatives, and logistical facilitators. NISA forces reportedly cleared three al Shabaab safehouses in the operation.
[i] Yemen Future, “Yemen: A senior military commander in the forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council was killed in clashes with al Qaeda in Abyan,” September 18, 2022, https://yemenfuture.net/news/10531.
[ii] Shabwah Press, “Statement of the 8th Thunderbolt Brigade about the bombing that targeted its forces during the storming of the Amran camp,” September 19, 2022, https://shabwaah-press.info/news/81749.
[iii] Istar Cabdi Yuusuf, “DF announced that it killed 30 members of al Shabaab in an operation,” Caasimada, September 17, 2022, https://www.caasimada.net/df-oo-shaaca-ka-qaaday-inay-howlgal-ku-dishay-35-ka-tirsan-al-shabaab/; SONNA, “SNA: More than 30 Al-Shabab militants killed in Aboorey area, Hiran region,” September 17, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/17/sna-more-than-30-al-shabab-miltants-killed-in-aboorey-area-hiran-region/.
[iv] SONNA, A huge blow to terrorists as army captures key villages,” September 19, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/19/a-huge-blow-to-terrorists-as-army-captures-key-villages/.
[v] Radio Mogadishu, “The SFG army went to civilians that the terrorists blew up,” September 16, 2022, https://radiomuqdisho.so/ciidanka-xds-oo-ku-baxay-dad-shacab-ah-oo-argagixisadu-ay-qarxisay/; SONNA, “SNA chief confirms 75 Al-Shabab terrorists killed in operation,” September 19, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/19/sna-chief-confirms-75-al-shabab-terrorists-killed-in-operation/.
[vi] SONNA, “More than 45 Al-Shabab terrorists killed in an operations by the SNA,” September 18, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/18/more-than-45-al-shabab-terrorists-killed-in-an-operations-by-the-sna/.
[vii] SONNA, “SNA chief confirms 75 Al-Shabab terrorists killed in operation.”
[viii] Abdi Sheikh, “Somali militia beheads Islamist insurgents after battle, witnesses say,” Reuters, September 18, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/somali-militia-beheads-islamist-insurgents-after-battle-witnesses-say-2022-09-18/.
[ix] SONNA, “Somali forces liberates several villages from terrorists,” September 17, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/17/somali-forces-liberates-several-villages-from-terrorists-2/.
[x] Puntland Post, “An explosion killed a famous peacemaker in Hiraan region,” September 17, 2022, https://puntlandpost.net/2022/09/17/qarax-lagu-laayay-nabaddoono-caan-ah-oo-ka-dhacay-gobolka-hiiraan/.
[xi] Somali Dispatch, “Al Shabaab blame U.S for death of Clan leaders,” September 17, 2022, https://www.somalidispatch.com/latest-news/al-shabaab-blame-u-s-for-death-of-clan-leaders/.
[xii] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – September 16, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, September 16, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-september-16-2022.
[xiii] @GaroweOnline, Twitter, September 17, 2022, https://twitter.com/GaroweOnline/status/1571201841202970630?s=20&t=vMks6-AMLyAFal07uMFlHQ.
[xiv] Puntland Post, “The government forces moved towards Elbur district in Galgadud region,” September 18, 2022, https://puntlandpost.net/2022/09/18/ciidamada-dowladda-oo-u-ruqaansaday-dhinaca-degmada-ceelbuur-ee-gobolka-galgaduud/; SONNA, A huge blow to terrorists as army captures key villages.”
[xv] Somalimemo, “The people of Elbur town put on an amazing show,” July 10, 2022, https://somalimemo.info/articles/16699/Shacabka-magaalada-Ceelbuur-oo-ciyaaro-cajiib-ah-soo-bandhigay; Somalimemo, “Relief delivered to drought affected people displace din Elbur,” January 30, 2022, https://somalimemo.info/articles/15870/Dadka-ay-Abaaruhu-Saameeyeen-ee-Kusoo-Barakacay-Ceelbuur-oo-Gurmad-la-Gaarsiiyey-SAWIRO.
[xvi] Somali Dispatch, “Al Shabaab Spokesman warns Ma’awisley, as hundreds of militants complete training, September 19, 2022, https://www.somalidispatch.com/latest-news/al-shabaab-spokesman-warns-maawisley-as-hundreds-militants-complete-training/.
[xvii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Addressing Military Camp Graduates, Shabaab Spokesman Welcomes Challenge by Somali President to Eliminate Group,” September 19, 2022, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.
[xviii] SONNA, “10 Al-Shabaab terrorists arrested and their secret houses seized by Somali Security forces,” September 16, 2022, https://sonna.so/en/2022/09/16/10-al-shabaab-terrorists-arrested-and-their-secret-houses-seized-by-somali-security-forces/.