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: Qatari-owned media reports possible changes in the PLC; Houthis object to Saudi “buffer zone” proposal; Houthis accuse UK of “hindering peace efforts”; AQAP targets UAE-backed forces with IED; UAE-backed forces begin counterterrorism operation in Shabwah

Somalia: Al Shabaab targets Mogadishu mayor’s headquarters in latest siege; Somali forces secure a village in southwestern Somalia to use as a launching pad for future operations; Somali forces with international partner air support clear al Shabaab–controlled areas in north-central Somalia; Somali special forces withdraw from key village in north-central Somalia one day after al Shabaab suicide raid targeting their base

Yemen Security Brief:

Qatari-owned, London-based al Araby al Jadeed reported on January 20 that the Saudi-led coalition may choose to downsize the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC).[i] The rumored downsizing would decrease the number of PLC deputies from seven to two, with one deputy representing the north and another representing the south. Al Araby al Jadeed’s sources reported the southern deputy would likely be Southern Transitional Council President Aydarus al Zubaidi, while the north may be represented by either UAE-backed National Resistance Forces leader Tariq Saleh or Ma’rib Governor Sultan al Arada.

The Houthis objected to a Saudi-proposed “border buffer zone” as part of peace negotiations on January 21.[ii] Houthi official media claimed the border zone would “rob Yemen of its rights and wealth.” The Houthis reported that Saudi Arabia seeks a 20km-wide buffer zone.

The Houthis accused the United Kingdom of “hindering peace efforts” on January 21.[iii] Houthi media criticized the British ambassador to Yemen’s support for the Yemeni government’s economic decisions. The Yemeni government’s economic decisions seek to offset a decrease in revenue caused by Houthi drone attacks on oil export facilities in Fall 2022.[iv]

Likely al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a UAE-backed Shabwani Defense Forces convoy in al Majaza, al Rawdha district, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on January 21.[v] The IED wounded four Shabwani Defense fighters.[vi]

The Shabwani Defense Forces began a counterterrorism operation in Nissab district, Shabwah governorate, on January 22.[vii] The operation aims to block AQAP fighters fleeing STC-backed counterterrorism operations in Abyan governorate, according to southern Yemeni media.

Somalia Security Brief:

Five al Shabaab gunmen and one suicide bomber disguised as Somali soldiers targeted the mayor’s headquarters in a siege in Mogadishu on January 22.[viii] Hamar Weyne district, Mogadishu. Turkish-trained Haram’ad special police ended the siege after four hours and displayed the bodies of all the alleged al Shabaab militants.[ix] Al Shabaab claimed the attack killed 34 people, while the government claimed it only killed 6.[x]

Somali National Army (SNA) and Jubbaland State forces peacefully secured Janay Abdalle, Afmadow district, Lower Jubba region, southwestern Somalia, on January 21.[xi] The village is near the midpoint of the road linking the regional capital Kismayo to Afmadow. The Jubbaland Darawish spokesperson said the capture of Janay Abdalle is the beginning of an offensive against al Shabaab in Lower Jubba.[xii] The Somali forces reportedly built a base in the town for upcoming operations in Afmadow district.[xiii] Al Shabaab has controlled the town and surrounding area since 2020.

Somali special forces, Galmudug State forces, and local militia, with international partner air support, cleared several villages in Harardhere district, Mudug region, north-central Somalia, on January 23.[xiv] The operation reportedly cleared five villages and killed at least 40 al Shabaab militants.

US-trained Danab special forces and Turkish-trained Gorgor special forces withdrew from Gal’ad, El Dheere district, north-central Somalia, on January 21, following a large-scale al Shabaab suicide raid targeting their bases on January 20.[xv] The forces re-established new bases near the Middle Shabelle-Galgudud regional border.[xvi]

[i] Al Araby al Jadeed, “Yemen: Discussions About Downsizing the Members of the Leadership Council and Changing the Government,” January 20, 2023,

[ii] Ansarollah, “Saudi Arabia Asks for a Divorce: The Solution with Yemen is a Buffer Zone,” January 21, 2023,

[iii] Al Masirah, “Foreign Ministry Condemns UK’s Insistence in Obstructing Peace Efforts to End US-Saudi Aggression,” January 21, 2023,

[iv] Jacob al Muaber and David Hessen, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – November 4, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, November 4, 2022,

[v] Khabar Agency, “An explosive device targeting a military vehicle in Shabwah,” January, 21, 2023,

[vi] Mahra Post, “Shabwah.. Four soldiers were injured when an explosive device exploded in a military patrol,” January 21, 2023,

[vii] SMA News, “A military operation against terrorist elements in Shabwah,” January 22, 2023,

[viii] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “Somalia: Deadly Al-Shabab siege at Mogadishu mayor's office leaves six dead,” Caasimada, January 23, 2023,

[ix] Somali National Television, @SNTVnews1, Twitter, January 22, 2023,

[x] SITE Intelligence Group, “[UPDATE 2] Shabaab "Special Forces" Storm Mogadishu Administrative HQ, Single Fighter Claims 16 Dead at His Hands Alone,” January 22, 2023, available by subscription at

[xi] Radio Dalsan, “The army and the Jubbaland forces have taken over an area where al Shabaab was located,” January 21, 2023,

[xii] Guuleed Muuse, “Jubbaland carried out the implementation of Hassan Sheikh’s warplan,” Caasimada, January 22, 2023,

[xiii] Guuleed Muuse, “Jubbaland carried out the implementation of Hassan Sheikh’s warplan.”

[xiv] Guuleed Muuse, “An attack was carried out on a base where al Shabaab was located and many members killed,” Caasimada, January 23, 2023,; Radio Risaala, “A bombardment took place on the outskirts of Harardhere, the forces took over new areas,” January 23, 2023,; Radio Risaala, “Operations in areas of Hiraan and Mudug regions,” January 23, 2023,

[xv] Jamaal Maxamed, “Government forces have withdrawn from Galcad district,” Caasimada, January 21, 2023,; Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – January 20, 2023,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, January 20, 2023, 

[xvi] Qiraat Somali, “Army units withdraw from Galcad, a day after al Shabaab attacked it,” January 21, 2023, 

View Citations
Arrow down red
Feb '23
Jan '23