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: Reported U.S. airstrike kills Ansar al Sharia leader in Abyan; reported U.S. airstrike kills six AQAP militants in Shabwah; suicide bomber targets Lahij security chief in Aden

Horn of Africa: SNA troops raid al Shabaab-held Mahaday village in Middle Shabelle, Somalia; KDF forces redeploy to Gedo region, Somalia; al Shabaab is primary suspect in Mogadishu plane explosion

Yemen Security Brief

  • A reported U.S. airstrike killed the leader of Ansar al Sharia, the insurgent arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, on February 4. Jamal Bal’idi al Marqishi was traveling by car between Zinjibar and Shaqra in Abyan governorate with at least two others at the time of the attack. AQAP has not yet confirmed his death. Bal’idi, who was known as Abu Hamza al Marqishi and Abu Zinjibari, also served as a field commander for AQAP. He is the highest value target reportedly killed by a U.S. airstrike since the strike on AQAP emir Nasser al Wahayshi in June 2015. The bounty on Bal’idi’s head was five million USD.[1]
  • A reported U.S. airstrike killed six AQAP militants in al Rawdah in central Shabwah governorate on February 4. The strike follows reports that militants had captured the city of Habban in Shabwah and were advancing toward Ataq, the governorate’s capital, on February 3. Al Rawdah lies approximately halfway between Habban and the city of Azzan, which AQAP militants seized on February 1.[2]
  • A suicide bomber attacked the home of Lahij governorate security chief Adel al Halemi in al Mindara district, Aden on February 3. The attack killed the bomber and wounded al Halemi and six others. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Somali National Army (SNA) troops raided the al Shabaab-controlled village of Mahaday in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region on February 3.  Both sides deployed heavy weaponry in the clash, which lasted for several hours. Local residents and SNA commanders claimed that al Shabaab suffered heavy losses, but casualty figures have not been reported.[4] 
  • Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) troops may be returning to Gedo region in Somalia.  Residents calling in to Radio Mogadishu claimed to see Kenyan troops equipped with armored vehicles crossing the Somali-Kenyan border.  KDF forces withdrew from bases in Somalia’s Gedo and Lower Jubba regions following an al Shabaab attack on a Kenyan-held AMISOM base at el Adde on January 15.[5] 
  • A U.S. government source cited al Shabaab as the primary suspect in the February 2 explosion aboard Daallo Airlines flight 3159.  The Airbus A321 was rocked by an explosion roughly ten minutes after its takeoff from Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, forcing an emergency landing. The blast killed one man, who was sucked out of the plane, and injured two other passengers. Al Shabaab has not claimed the attack.[6]

[1] “Top al Qaeda commander killed in Yemen drone strikes: residents,” Reuters, Feburary 4, 2016,
Lizzie Dearden, “Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen Jalal Baleedi 'killed in drone strike,’” The Independent, February 4, 2016,
[2] “Top al Qaeda commander killed in Yemen drone strikes: residents,” Reuters, Feburary 4, 2016,
[3] “Suicide attack in Yemen's Aden wounds security chief,” Reuters, February 3, 2016,
“Targeting of the home of major security official by car bomb in Aden (name of the official),”, February 3, 2016,
[4] “SNA soldiers, Al Shabaab clash near Mahaday town,” Shabelle News, February 4, 2016,
[5] “Fresh Kenyan forces cross into south of Somalia,” Shabelle News, February 4, 2016,
[6] Abdi Sheikh and Mark Hosenball, “Militant group Al Shabaab leading suspect in Somalia plane blast: U.S. government sources,” Reuters, February 3, 2016,
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