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: Pro-STC media claims STC–backed forces attack an Islah checkpoint in Shabwah governorate; AQAP detonates another IED targeting STC backed forces in Abyan governorate; Houthi officials reiterate their preconditions for a truce extension
Somalia: Anti-al Shabaab forces secure last al Shabaab–controlled town in the Middle Shabelle region; US-trained forces probe al Shabaab positions in the Galgadud region with US drone support; South West State security forces attack opposition clan militia in Baidoa; al Shabaab kills an SNA major general in roadside IED attack in south-central Somalia; UN Security Council delays first ATMIS drawdown until June 2023
Yemen Security Brief:
Southern Transitional Council (STC)–backed forces attacked an Islah-backed forces checkpoint in Arin, Arma district, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on December 22.[i] Pro-STC media claimed the STC-backed forces reportedly mortared Islah-backed camps after Islah-backed forces did not heed a 48-hour eviction notice.[ii] The two sides exchanged several rounds of mortar fire and pro-STC media claimed the Islah-backed forces withdrew from the area.[iii]
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting STC-backed Security Belt Forces near Wadi Omran, Mudiya district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on December 22.[iv] The attack wounded four soldiers. AQAP also targeted STC-backed forces in a roadside IED attack on December 21.[v]
High-ranking Houthi officials reiterated previous demands on salary provisions and the opening of ports and airports during discussions with an Omani delegation on December 21 and 22 in Sana’a. Chief Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam emphasized the need to separate and prioritize the “humanitarian file” on December 21.[vi] Houthi Supreme Political Council head Mahdi al Mashat reiterated that “there can be no truce” if the Saudi-led coalition does not meet Houthi demands and that “Houthi patience is not endless” during discussions on December 22.[vii]
Somalia Security Brief:
Somali National Army and local militia secured Run Nirgood, Adan Yabal district, Middle Shabelle region, south-central Somalia, on December 22.[viii] The town was the last al Shabaab-controlled town in the Middle Shabelle Region. It functions as a gateway town into the Galgadud region.
US-trained Danab forces cleared a gathering of al Shabaab fighters with US drone support near El Ba’ad, El Dhere district, Galgadud region, north-central Somalia, on December 23. Somali officials claimed the operation killed at least 67 militants and destroyed one camp.[ix] US Africa Command later claimed it killed six militants in a self-defense strike in the area.[x] El Ba’ad is one mile from the Middle Shabelle border.
South West State (SWS) security forces attacked political opposition clan militia in Baidoa, Bay Region, on December 23. Tensions between opposition candidates and the incumbent SWS President Abdiaziz Laftagareen had risen in recent weeks after the opposition candidates refused to recognize the SWS parliament’s extension of Laftagareen’s until December 19, 2023.[xi] Security forces loyal to Laftagareen attacked the house of a former Somali finance minister and candidate in the SWS presidential elections.[xii] Clan militia were reportedly staying at the house.[xiii] The clashes killed at least two civilians and injured at least seven others.[xiv] The opposition candidates condemned the attack and urged the federal government and African Union forces to ensure impartial security in the town.[xv] The Somali Federal Government urged mediation between the two sides.[xvi] It is unclear if a reconciliation meeting between Laftagareen and several opposition candidates that was scheduled for January 5, 2023, will proceed.[xvii]
Al Shabaab detonated a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) targeting an SNA convoy between Mahaday and Burane, Jowhar district, Middle Shabelle region, south-central Somalia, on December 22.[xviii] The attack killed a major general and four other bodyguards.
The UN Security Council delayed the first phase of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) drawdown on December 21.[xix] The move pushes the stalls the drawdown for another six months until June 30, 2023.
[i] Al Mashad al Yemeni, “After the threat of war and expulsion of army forces, the Transitional Council launches its first military operation against the legitimate government,” December 22, 2022, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/246382; al Mashad al Yemeni, “Al Mashat issues a new warning, refuses to extend the truce, and throws a heavy ball at the Omani delegation,” December 22, 2022, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/246365.
[iii] Aden Time, “Urgent: Shabwa tribes start a military move and take control of the first Brotherhood point in Arama,” December 22, 2022, https://www.aden-tm.net/news/228451; SMA News, “Shabwa tribes control the Brotherhood’s first military point in Arma,” December 22, 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/314313/.
[v] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – December 21, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, December 21, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-december-21-2022.
[vi] Al Masirah, “The visit of the Omani delegation comes as a continuation of the discussions of ending aggression and lifting the blockade as rights, without which peace cannot be achieved,” December 22, 2022, https://www.masirahtv.net/post/225512/.
[viii] Radio Dalsan, “The government forces took over the strategic district of Run Nirgood today,” December 22, 2022, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/ciidamada-dowladda-oo-maanta-la-wareegay-degmada-istiraatiijiga-ah-ee-runir-good/.
[ix] Radio Risaala, “The Government said that a planned operation killed al Shabaab members,” December 23, 2022, https://radiorisaala.com/dowladda-oo-sheegtay-in-howlgal-qorsheysan-lagu-dilay-xubno-katirsan-al-shabaab/; SONNA, @SONNALive, Twitter, December 23, 2022, https://twitter.com/SONNALIVE/status/1606211910126518272?s=20&t=RCrlYVkNxlrLp96ilKG5cg.
[x] US AFRICOM Public Affairs, “Somali forces engage al-Shabaab insurgents,” US AFRICOM, December 23, 2022, https://www.africom.mil/pressrelease/35066/somali-forces-engage-al-shabaab-insurgents.
[xi] Puntland Post, “Tension in the city of Baidoa,” December 23, 2022, https://puntlandpost.net/2022/12/23/xiisad-ka-taagan-magaalada-baydhabo/; Garowe Online, “Somalia: South West parliament extends Lafta-Gareen’s term by one year,” April 20, 2022, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-southwest-parliament-extends-lafta-gareens-term-by-one-more-year.
[xii] Puntland Post, “Tension in the city of Baidoa.”
[xiii] Radio Dalsan, “The latest news on the war between the South West army and the so-called Salvation Army,” December 23, 2022, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/wararkii-ugu-danbeeyay-dagaalka-ciidanka-k-galbeed-iyo-kuwa-la-magac-baxay-badbaada/.
[xiv] Horn Observer, “UPDATE: At least 2 civilians killed, several others injured in Baidoa armed clashes,” December 23, 2022, https://hornobserver.com/articles/1912/UPDATE-At-least-2-civilians-killed-several-others-injured-in-Baidoa-armed-clashes; Hussein Mohamed, Twitter, @HussienM12, December 23, 2022, https://twitter.com/HussienM12/status/1606327745750994945?s=20&t=RCrlYVkNxlrLp96ilKG5cg.
[xv] Guuleed Muuse, “The crisis in the South West, ‘what broke the cord,’ and the latest news” Caasimada, December 23, 2022, https://www.caasimada.net/xiisada-koonfur-galbeed-oo-xarka-goosatay-iyo-wararkii-ugu-dambeeyay/.
[xvi] Horseed Media, “The Federal Government released news about the war in Baidoa,” December 23, 2022, https://horseedmedia.net/dowladda-federaalka-oo-war-ka-soo-saartay-dagaalka-baydhabo-376405.
[xvii] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “FAST: Aden Madobe announced a plan for the Baidoa war,” Caasimada, December 23, 2022, https://www.caasimada.net/deg-deg-aadan-madoobe-oo-shaaciyey-qorshe-laga-leeyahay-dagaalka-baydhaba/.
[xviii] Radio Risaala, “A government officer and his bodyguards were killed in an explosion,” December 23, 2022, https://radiorisaala.com/sarkaal-katirsan-ciidamada-dowladda-iyo-ilaaladiisa-oo-qarax-lagu-dilay/.
[xix] United Nations Security Council, “Security Council Extends Drawdown of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia by Six Months, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2670 (2022),” December 22, 2022, https://press.un.org/en/2022/sc15160.doc.htm.