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: Abdulmalik al Houthi meets with Omani delegation; AQAP conducts two attacks in southern Yemen; STC-backed units repulse major Houthi attacks in Dhaleh; Houthis reject Saudi offers to pay salaries; 135th Infantry Brigade blocks implementation of presidential decree
Somalia: Al Shabaab suicide attack targets town near Hiraan-Galgadud regional border in central Somalia; al Shabaab claims to overrun a local militia base in central Somalia; anti-al Shabaab forces secure several villages as they approach al Shabaab–controlled district capital in central Somalia; anti-al Shabaab forces clear al Shabaab–held town in central Somalia; al Shabaab kidnaps 20 civilians in central Somalia
Yemen Security Brief:
Houthi Leader Abdulmalik al Houthi met with a senior Omani delegation visiting Sana’a on December 25, according to Houthi media.[i] Houthi Chief Negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam called the meeting “fruitful.” Houthi warned the Omanis about Yemen’s “economic situation.”[ii] Houthi reporting did not clarify if the “meeting” was in-person. Abdulmalik usually only meets with a few key Houthi leaders.[iii]
Likely al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters detonated at least one improvised explosive device (IED) targeting UAE-backed Giants Brigades fighters near al Salaf, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on December 29.[iv] Local media did not report any casualties. Separately, likely AQAP fighters detonated an IED targeting the home of a tribal sheikh near al Qulaytah, Mudiyah district, Abyan governorate, southern Yemen, on January 3.[v] The IED killed one local and wounded three more.
Southern Transitional Council (STC)-backed forces repulsed a series of major Houthi attacks against pro-government positions in Dhaleh governorate, southern Yemen between December 29 and 31. Likely STC-backed brigades repulsed repeated Houthi attacks against pro-government positions in al Thukhab sector, northeastern Hasha district on December 29 and 30.[vi] The Houthis subsequently launched a major attack against STC-backed Dhaleh Military Axis positions on the al Jub and al Fakhr fronts, western al Qatabah district, on December 31.[vii] The Dhaleh Military Axis killed at least thirty Houthi fighters during the Houthi assault.
Houthi media said that the Houthi movement rejected two Saudi overtures to pay Houthi-controlled government salaries on December 31.[viii] The first Saudi offer proposed only paying civil salaries. The second Saudi proposal offered to pay civil salaries first and then subsequently pay military salaries “after several months.” The Houthis stated that they will “resume the fight” if Oman’s negotiation efforts fail and set an unspecified “timetable” for resumption of major fighting.
The 135th Infantry Brigade prevented the new 1st Military Region chief of staff from entering his headquarters on January 3.[ix] Yemeni President Rashad al Alimi removed The 135th Brigade’s commander, Yahya Abu Awja, as 1st Military Region chief of staff on December 6.[x]
Somalia Security Brief:
Al Shabaab detonated two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in Mahas, Bulo Burde district, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on January 4.[xi] The explosions killed at least 20 people.[xii] Al Shabaab claimed the attack killed 87 people and wounded a further 130 people.[xiii] Somali media says the two suicide bombers detonated their vehicles outside of the mayor and a local member of parliament’s house, while al Shabaab claimed they targeted the major military base in the town.[xiv] The vehicles reportedly entered Mahas from the direction of Wabho town, which government forces briefly captured in November 2022.[xv]
Al Shabaab claimed to overrun a local militia base in Duduna’ad, Goobo area, Beledweyne district, Hiraan region, on January 4.[xvi] Local officials claimed al Shabaab only controlled the area for a brief period and destroyed a water well the government dug in December.[xvii] The area is roughly 10 miles from Mahas.
Anti-al Shabaab forces have secured several villages in El Dhere district, southern Galgadud region, central Somalia, since December 27.[xviii] One of the secured villages is Masagaway, which is the last major settlement before the al Shabaab–controlled district capital, El Dhere. Al Shabaab abandoned all the villages before security forces arrived and reportedly began forcibly relocating civilians from El Dhere on January 3.[xix]
The Somali National Army and local clan forces cleared Buq Goosar, Beledweyne district, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on January 3.[xx] Somali forces claimed they killed ten al Shabaab militants. Al Shabaab has controlled Buq Goosar since 2015.[xxi]
Al Shabaab abducted 20 Hawadle civilians from Beledweyne district, Hiraan region, central Somalia, on January 2.[xxii] An escapee claimed that al Shabaab tortured the hostages.[xxiii] Al Shabaab has leveraged hostages to strike ceasefires with clans in recent negotiations.[xxiv]
[i] 26 September News Houthi, “Abdul Salam: The Leader of the Revolution Meets the Omani Delegation,” December 25, 2022, https://26sep.net/index.php/local/49502-2022-12-25-19-41-30.
[iii] Michael Knights, Adnan al Gabarni, Casey Coombs, “The Houthi Jihad Council: Command and Control in ‘the Other Hezbollah’,” Combating Terrorism Center at West Post, October 2022, https://ctc.westpoint.edu/the-houthi-jihad-council-command-and-control-in-the-other-hezbollah/.
[vi] SMA News, “The Southern Armed Forces Break an Attack by the Houthi Militia, Inflicting Heavy Losses North of al Dhaleh,” December 29, 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/315483/.
[vii] Al Mashhad al Yemeni, “Dozens were killed as a result of the Houthi attack and an attempt to reach the southern governorate of Yemen,” December 31, 2022, https://www.almashhad-alyemeni.com/246841.
[viii] 26 September News Houthi, “Oman.. Last-minute Efforts to Break the Siege Peacefully,” December 31, 2022, https://26sep.net/index.php/local/49833-2022-12-31-17-51-18.
[x] Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – December 7, 2022,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, December 7, 2022, https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/gulf-of-aden-security-review/gulf-of-aden-security-review-december-7-2022.
[xi] Reuters, January 4, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/car-bombs-kill-least-10-level-houses-central-somalia-2023-01-04/.
[xii] Harun Maruf, @HarunMaruf, Twitter, January 4, 2023, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/1610590736411512832?s=20&t=bdoBRAdSAjvy0FkXZ1Mt9Q.
[xiii] Radio al Furqaan, “Al-Shabaab claimed that 87 soldiers were killed in the attack. (Press Release),” January 4, 2023, https://radioalfurqaan.com/2023/01/al-shabaab-oo-sheegtay-in-87-askari-saraakiil-ay-ku-dilee-weeraradii-maxaas-warsaxaafadeed/.
[xiv] Radio al Furqaan, “Al-Shabaab carried out large-scale attacks on bases in Mahas,” January 4, 2023, https://radioalfurqaan.com/2023/01/al-shabaab-oo-weeraro-waaweyn-ku-qaaday-saldhigyo-maxaas-ku-yaalla/; Radio Dalsan, “The latest news on casualties caused by suicide bombings in Mahas,” January 4, 2023, https://www.radiodalsan.com/wararka-idaacadda/wararkii-ugu-dambeeyay-khasaare-ka-dhashay-qaraxyo-ismiidaamin-ah-oo-ka-dhacay-maxaas/.
[xv] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “15 civilians killed in twin car bombs in central Somalia,” Caasimada, January 4, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/15-civilians-killed-in-twin-car-bombs-in-central-somalia/.
[xvi] Radio al Furqaan, “Al-Shabaab carried out large-scale attacks on bases in Mahas.”
[xvii] Mogadishu Update, @Magdashi3, Twitter, January 4, 2023, https://twitter.com/Magdashi3/status/1610572559048638464?s=20&t=HQoHBpqM9y5-yXaXF37iBw.
[xviii] Radio Risaala, “Al Shabaab left Galcad and the government forces entered,” December 27, 2022, https://radiorisaala.com/daawo-al-shabaab-oo-isaga-baxay-galcad-ciidamada-dowladda-oo/; Garowe Online @GaroweOnline, Twitter, December 29, 2022, https://twitter.com/GaroweOnline/status/1608452928133791745?s=20&t=Ejmi1Iv0zU5dgJRYPme0LA; Somali Dispatch, “Somalia: SNA Takes Masagaway,” January 2, 2023, https://www.somalidispatch.com/latest-news/somalia-sna-takes-masagaway/.
[xix] Zahra Axmed Gacal, “Information: Al-Shabaab evicting residents from Eeldheer district,” Caasimada, January 3, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/ciidamada-dowladda-iyo-kuwa-deegaanka-oo-la-wareegay-masagawaay/.
[xx] Zahra Axmed Gacal, “Many al-Shabaab were killed this afternoon in Hiran and the war spread to the west,” Caasimada, January 3, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/shabaab-badan-oo-galabta-lagu-dilay-hiiraan-iyo-dagaalka-oo-ku-fiday-galbeedka/.
[xxi] Goobjoog, “At least 11 die as local forces battle Al-Shabaab in Hiraan,” July 31, 2015, https://goobjoog.com/english/11-die-as-local-forces-bottled-al-shabab/.
[xxii] Jamaal Maxamad, “Al-Shabaab has once again kidnapped civilians from Hiran,” Caasimada, January 2, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/al-shabaab-oo-markale-dad-shacab-ah-ka-afduubatay-hiiraan/.
[xxiii] Guuleed Muuse, “Listen to an interview with one of the people kidnapped by Al-Shabaab who escaped,” Caasimada, January 2, 2023, https://www.caasimada.net/dhageyso-wareysiga-mid-ka-mid-ah-dadkii-ay-afduubatay-al-shabaab-oo-soo-baxsaday/.
[xxiv] Asad Cabdullahi Mataan, “Al-Shabaab announced an agreement it said it had signed with the Saleeban community,” Caasimada, December 23, 2022, https://www.caasimada.net/al-shabaab-oo-shaacisay-heshiis-ay-sheegtay-inay-la-saxiixatay-beesha-saleebaan/.