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: 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]

[i] NewsYemen, “Sources for ‘NewsYemen’: A new exchange deal between al Qaeda and the Houthis includes 26 elements,” January 19, 2023,

[ii] SITE, “AQAP Kills STC Commander in Bomb Blast in Mudiyah, Boasts Exhuasting Enemy Militarily and Morally,” January 18, 2023, available by subscription at:

[iii] 4May, “The Commander of the 5th Thunderbolt Brigade Condoles with the Martyrdom of Abdul Rahim al Maakir and Two of His Escorts in Abyan,” January 19, 2023,

[iv] 4May, “The Central Belt Defuses an Explosive Device in Abyan, January 20, 2023,

[v] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “Al-Shabab launches surprise attack on Somali military base,” Caasimada, January 20, 2023, 

[vi] Puntland Post, “Galgudud: Al Shabaab attacked a military base and killed a commander,” January 20, 2023,; SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Claims Over 159 Killed in Raid on Danab Special Forces Base in Galguduud,” January 20, 2022, available by subscription at

[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,

[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,

[x] Radio Dalsan, “A war between Ma’awisley and al Shabaab in an area under Beledweyne,” January 19, 2023,

[xi] Calamada, “Explosives set vehicles on fire in Lower Shabelle,” January 19, 2023,

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