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: Houthis ban import of domestic gas into Houthi-controlled territory from government-controlled territory; prominent AQ supporter calls on UAE-backed fighters to defect from their unit; AQAP claims three drone attacks targeting UAE-backed forces; AQAP claims third drone attack targeting UAE-backed brigade commander

Somalia: Joint Somali-US drone strike injures head of al Shabaab external operations; US sanctions dozens of al Shabaab logistics nodes and leaders; Somali forces clear al Shabaab hideouts in central Somalia

Yemen Security Brief

The Houthis banned the import of domestic gas into Houthi-controlled areas from government-controlled areas on May 24.[i] The Houthis are continuing to block overland shipping routes in Yemen, forcing goods bound for areas outside of southern Yemen to dock in Houthi-controlled Hudaydah.[ii] Hudaydah currently lacks the capacity to handle the influx of shipping, slowing the import of goods into Yemen.

A prominent al Qaeda-linked supporter called on UAE-backed Giants Brigades fighters to defect from the Giants Brigades on May 20.[iii] The Giants Brigades are Salafi fighters trained by the UAE.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed an drone attack targeting the Shabwani Defense Forces in al Musayniah, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen, on May 16. The group separately claimed a second attack on May 16 in the same area, in which AQAP fighters sniped a Shabwani Defense Forces fighter.[iv]

AQAP claimed a second drone attack targeting a commander in the UAE-backed Shabwani Defense Forces on May 21 in al Musayniah, Shabwah governorate, southern Yemen. AQAP claimed the attack “severely injured” the commander.[v]

AQAP claimed a third drone attack targeting the commander of the 1st Shabwani Defense Forces Brigade on May 23 in al Musayniah. AQAP fighters then detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting the same commander while he was traveling to the hospital in al Musayniah.[vi]

Somalia Security Brief

A joint Somali-US drone strike wounded al Shabaab’s head of external operations, Moalim Osman, near Jilib, Middle Jubba region, southern Somalia, on May 22.[vii] Osman oversees foreign fighter recruitment and plans al Shabaab military operations in Ethiopia and Kenya.[viii] US Africa Command said the strike caused no civilian casualties.[ix]

The US sanctioned 31 al Shabaab–linked individuals and entities on May 24. The US Treasury Department designated 26 individuals and entities connected with al Shabaab smuggling and procurement networks.[x] The US State Department designated five al Shabaab leaders involved in a spectrum of military, financial, and governance activity as specially designated global terrorists.[xi]

Newly deployed Somali National Army forces cleared al Shabaab hideouts near Run Nirgood, Adan Yabal district, Middle Shabelle region, central Somalia, on May 24.[xii]

[i] Riyadh al Dubai, Twitter, May 24, 2023,

[ii] Nick Brumfield, Twitter, May 23, 2023,

[iii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Prominent Jihadist Calls on Members of UAE-backed Giants Brigades to Defect, Join AQAP,” May 22, 2023, source available by subscription at:

[iv] SITE Intelligence Group, “AQAP Claims Weaponized UAV Strike on Shabwa Defense Forces, Provides Photo Documentation,” May 18, 2023, source available by subscription at:

[v] SITE Intelligence Group, “AQAP Claims Second Weaponized UAV Bombardment on Shabwa Defense Forces in 4 Days, Injures Stationed Commander,” May 22, 2023, source available by subscription at:

[vi] SITE Intelligence Group, “AQAP Seriously Injures Senior Commander of Shabwa Defense Forces in Weaponized UAV Strike, Vehicle Bombing,” May 24, 2023, source available by subscription at:

[vii] Harun Maruf, “US Says Al-Shabab Leader Injured in Airstrike in Somalia,” Voice of America, May 23, 2023,; Brian Carter and Liam Karr, “Gulf of Aden Security Review – May 22, 2023,” Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, May 22, 2023,;

[viii] Harun Maruf, “US Says Al-Shabab Leader Injured in Airstrike in Somalia.”

[ix] United States Africa Command, “U.S. Counterterrorism Operation in Somalia,” May 24, 2023,

[x] US Department of Treasury, “Treasury Designates Terror Operatives and Illicit Charcoal Smugglers in Somalia,” May 24, 2023,

[xi] Antony J. Blinken, “Terrorist Designation of al-Shabaab Leaders,” US Department of State, May 24, 2023,

[xii] Somali National TV, @sntvnews1, Twitter, May 24, 2023,

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