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: Omani delegation visits Sana’a for negotiations; Houthi negotiator threatens Gulf states and claims Saudi foreign minister will meet with Omani delegation in Muscat, Oman; Houthi president meets with UN envoy; anonymous Saudi and Houthi officials summarize negotiations to Associated Press
Somalia: Al Shabaab carries out three more suicide bombings in central Somalia; al Shabaab launches suicide raid targeting Somali base in south-central Somalia; Somali forces secure two district capitals critical to al Shabaab finances in central Somalia
Yemen Security Brief:
Omani officials met with the Houthi president on January 12.[i] Oman is serving as the intermediary in bilateral Saudi-Houthi talks. The Houthi President and the Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam said that Oman provided “positive ideas” on providing salaries, exchanging prisoners, and opening ports, airports, and roads.
A Houthi negotiator claimed on January 14 that the Saudi foreign minister will meet with Omani officials in Muscat after the Omani delegation returns from Sana’a.[ii] The negotiator threatened Saudi Arabia, saying that if Yemen’s de-facto truce breaks, the Houthis will launch missiles targeting Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and “those in their orbit.”[iii]
Houthi President Mahdi al Mashaat met with UN Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg in Sana’a, Yemen, on January 16, and reiterated that “humanitarian issues” must be solved before any political solution.[iv] The Houthi parliamentary speaker, prime minister, and deputy prime minister for security affairs also attended the meeting with Mashaat and Grundberg on January 16. The Houthi foreign minister separately met with Grundberg on January 17. The foreign minister commended the UN peace efforts and reemphasized the Houthi's commitment to the peace process.[v] Grundberg left Sana’a on January 17.[vi]
An anonymous Saudi diplomat told Associated Press that the Saudis offered to pay Houthi salaries if the Houthis agreed to accept a buffer zone between Houthi-controlled areas and Saudi territory, reopen roads around Taiz city, and commit to joining official talks with other Yemeni parties.[vii] A Houthi official said that the Houthis refused to accept the security guarantees and demanded oil revenues be distributed based on the pre-war budget.
Somalia Security Brief:
Al Shabaab detonated at least four suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) in three attacks across central Somalia’s Hiraan region between January 14 and 16. Three bombers targeted the police station and African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) bases in Bulo Burde and Jalalaqsi on January 14.[viii] The attacks killed at least 35 people.[ix] A fourth bomber targeted a local militia checkpoint in Halgan, Bulo Burde district, on January 16, killing a regional police chief.[x]
Al Shabaab launched a complex suicide attack targeting a Somali base in Hawadley, Bal’ad district, Middle Shabelle region, south-central Somalia, on January 17. Al Shabaab suicide bombers began the attack by detonating “up to three” suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices at the base perimeter.[xi] Al Shabaab claimed to kill at least 63 soldiers, including an officer.[xii] The SNA head admitted the attack killed the officer and four other soldiers but said SNA forces repelled the attack and killed at least 21 al Shabaab militants.[xiii] Somali forces cleared al Shabaab gatherings near Hawadley on January 8 and 9 and conducted another round of clearing operations in the area on January 18.[xiv]
Somali forces, including US-trained Danab soldiers and US-trained Puntland Security Forces, and local militia secured two district capitals –Harardhere and El Dheere– in Galmudug State, north-central Somalia, on January 16 and 17.[xv] Al Shabaab had evacuated and forcibly relocated civilians from both towns before troops arrived.[xvi] Al Shabaab has controlled Harardhere since 2008.[xvii] The group also used the ports near the two capitals for weapons smuggling and other illicit activities that fund its operations in central Somalia.[xviii]
[i] Al Masirah, “al Mashaat: Omani Delegation Positively Leading Negotiations with US-Saudi Aggression,” January 17, 2023, https://english.almasirah.net.ye/post/30819/; al Masirah, “President Mashaat: The consultations with the Omani delegation bore positive ideas related to the humanitarian file, foremost of which is the disbursement of salaries,” January 16, 2023, https://www.masirahtv.net/post/226859/; and SABA (Houthi), “President Mashaat meets with the delegation of the sisterly Sultanate of Oman,” January 12, 2023, https://saba.ye/ar/news3218996.
[iii] Al Alam, “Sana’a warns Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the event of failure to achieve a truce.”
[vii] Samy Magdy, “Yemen rebels, Saudis in back-channel talks to maintain truce,” Associated Press, January 18, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/politics-yemen-government-saudi-arabia-houthis-2b3a40079aaf6ce6bac9817d86d8c52a.
[viii] Somali Dispatch, “Explosions target Buuloburte and Jalalqasi,” January 15, 2023, https://www.somalidispatch.com/latest-news/explosions-target-buuloburte-and-jalalqasi/
[ix] Halbeeg, “Death toll rises to over 30 in triple suicide attacks in Hiiraan,” January 15, 2023, https://en.halbeeg.com/2023/01/15/death-toll-rises-to-over-30-in-triple-suicide-attacks-in-hiiraan/
[x] Hiraan Online, “Beledweyne CID chief killed in Al Shabaab car bomb attack,” January 16, 2023, http://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2023/Jan/189512/beledweyne_cid_chief_killed_in_al_shabaab_car_bomb_attack.aspx
[xi] Jamaal Maxamed, “Al-Shabaab killed commander Abshir Shataqey and many soldiers today,” Caasimada, January 17, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/al-shabaab-oo-weerar-ismiidaamin-ah-ku-dhishay-taliyihii-guutada-3-aad-iyo-askar-badan/
[xii] Calamada, “63 soldiers killed in the Hawadley Operation press release,” January 17, 2023, https://calamada.com/63-askari-oo-lagu-dilay-howlgalkii-xawaadley-akhriso-warsaxaafadeed/
[xiii] Radio Risaala, “The Commander of the Armed Forces spoke about the attack in Hawadley,” January 17, 2023, https://radiorisaala.com/taliyaha-ciidanka-xoogga-dalka-oo-ka-hadlay-weerarkii-ka-dhacay-xawaadleey/
[xiv] Radio Dalsan, “The Somali government said it had killed al Shabaab fighters in an operation,” January 8, 2023, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/dowladda-soomaaliya-oo-sheegtay-inay-howgal-ku-dishay-dagaalamayaal-ka-tirsan-al-shabaab/; Guuleed Muuse, “The government announced that 2 leaders and other members of Al-Shabaab were killed in an operation,” Caasimada, January 10, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/df-oo-shaacisay-in-laba-horjooge-oo-shabaab-ah-iyo-xubno-kale-lagu-dilay-howl-gal-qorsheysan/; Radio Risaala, “The government said that members of al Shabaab were killed in an operation,” January 18, 2023, https://radiorisaala.com/dowladda-oo-sheegtay-in-howlgal-lagu-dilay-xubno-katirsan-al-shabaab-8/
[xv] Somali Dispatch, Al Shabaab kicked out of Harardhere,” January 17, 2023, https://www.somalidispatch.com/latest-news/somalia-al-shabaab-kicked-out-of-harardhere/; Horseed Media, “The national forces have taken over El Dheere,” January 17, 2023, https://horseedmedia.net/ciidamada-xoogga-dalka-oo-la-wareegay-magaalada-ceeldheer-376941
[xvi] Zahra Axmad Gacal, “The al Shabaab group imposed heavy orders on the people living in El Dheere,” Caasimada, January 3, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/xog-kooxda-al-shabaab-oo-amar-culus-ku-soo-rogtay-dadka-ku-nool-ceeldheer/; Hiraan Online, “Al Shabaab withdrew from Harardhere district in Mudug region,” January 14, 2023, http://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2023/Jan/189491/al_shabab_withdrew_from_haradhere_district_in_mudug_region.aspx
[xvii] Abdiqani Hassan, “Somalia says it has taken control of key port from al Shabaab,” Reuters, January 16, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/somalia-says-it-has-seized-key-port-town-al-shabaab-2023-01-16/
[xviii] Hiraal Institute, “Al Shabaab’s Arsenal: From Taxes to Terror,” February 2022, https://hiraalinstitute.so/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Al-Shabaabs-Arsenal-From-Taxes-to-Terror-Web.pdf