Update and Assessment: February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Al Shabaab is very likely behind the suicide bomb attack on a Daallo Airlines flight in Mogadishu. The attack signals a major inflection in the group’s capabilities and intent, and al Shabaab will probably attempt a similar attack in the near future. The group is also strengthening on the ground, capitalizing on the redeployment of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops after the January 15 el Adde attack.
  2. A U.S. airstrike killed a top al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander in Abyan, Jalal Bal’idi al Marqishi, and sparked local clashes over his succession. However, AQAP has already demonstrated the ability to recover from leadership attrition, and the group seized two key towns in the days after the strike. AQAP continues to consolidate control of the populated areas along the main road from Aden, through Abyan and Shabwah, and to its stronghold in al Mukalla, Hadramawt.
  3. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Sahara Emirate conducted a complex attack on a UN police base housed in a hotel in Timbuktu. The group’s claim linked the attack to recent sieges on civilian targets in Ouagadougou and Bamako, indicating that AQIM intends to continue high-profile attacks on Western targets in the region, especially those that support the pending peace deal in northern Mali.