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: AQAP takes control of al Mahfid, Abyan; AQAP consolidates control in Zinjibar, Abyan; ISIS Wilayat Hadramawt releases propaganda video

Horn of Africa: Al Shabaab captures Merca, Lower Shabelle region; suspected al Shabaab car bombs target airport official and  NISA senior officer in Mogadishu; IED targets AMISOM convoy near Jowhar, Lower Shabelle region; Jubbaland state president announces joint SNA-AMISOM offensive

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants took control of the city of al Mahfid in northeastern Abyan governorate on February 4, according to breaking reports. Al Mahfid lies on a major east-west transit route in southern Yemen, approximately 54 kilometers from the city of Habban in Shabwah governorate, which AQAP seized on February 3.[1]
  • AQAP consolidated control of the city of Zinjibar in Abyan governorate on February 4. Militants reportedly ousted local forces from checkpoints and raised al Qaeda’s black flag over government buildings. AQAP has held a dominant position in Zinjibar since December 2015, but local popular resistance forces retained control of certain areas.[2]
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Hadramawt released a video of killings and operations in Hadramawt governorate on February 3. The video showed the execution of four Yemeni soldiers and the killing of an opposition fighter in a marketplace, as well as operations against army units loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government in northern Hadramawt, near the Saudi-Yemeni border.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Al Shabaab militants captured the port city of Merca in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on February 5 after Somali National Army (SNA) and Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops withdrew from the city.  The fighters reportedly raised their flag over the town’s police station and called for residents to gather in the town center for prayer and lectures.  The SNA and AMISOM troops retreated to a large military camp located at El Jaale before halting at the suburb of Shalanbood.  Merca is located roughly 110 kilometers from Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu and has been under AMISOM control since 2012.[4] 
  • Militants detonated a car bomb targeting an Aden Adde airport security official in Mogadishu on February 5, killing three civilians.  The targeted official survived the attack.  A separate car bomb targeted a Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) official in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district on the same day, killing one civilian wounding two NISA officers, including the targeted official. No group has claimed the attack,but the targeting and tactics suggest al Shabaab.[5] 
  • An improvised explosive device (IED) targeted an AMISOM convoy near Leego village in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on February 5. The device, which was apparently constructed from a landmine, damaged an AMISOM water tanker but caused no casualties.  No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but al Shabaab militants are active in the region.[6]
  • The President of Jubbaland state, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Madobe, announced the launch of a joint SNA-AMISOM offensive on January 5. The offensive will target al Shabaab positions along the Jubba River.  The Ethiopian AMISOM contingent reportedly redeployed several units to Kismayo for the operation.  Reports of Ethiopian troops engaging al Shabaab forces on the outskirts of Kismayo surfaced within hours of the announcement.[7]

[1] “Al Qaeda spreads in the south of Yemen and completes its control over the town of al Mahfid in Abyan governorate,” Al Masdar, February 4, 2016,
[2] “Al Qaeda officially announces control over Zinjibar and expels the resistance,”, February 4, 2016,
[3] SITE Intelligence Group. Source available upon request.
[4] “Al-Shabab retakes key Somalia port city of Merca,” BBC Africa News, February 5, 2016,
Harun Maruf via Twitter, February 5, 2016,
“Al-shabaab retakes Marka town after government forces withdrew,” Wacaal Media, February 5, 2016,
[5] “Three killed in Somalia car bomb targeting airport official,” Bar-Kulan News, February 5, 2016, BREAKING: Car bomb blast targets senior NISA officer in Mogadishu,” Shabelle News, February 5, 2016,
[6] “AMISOM troops’ convoy targeted in land-mine explosion,” Shabelle News, February 5, 2016,
[7] “Somalia: Jubaland readies anti-militant push,” Garowe News Online, February 5, 2016,  “The fighting in the outskirts of Kismayo,” Voice of America Somalia Service (translated from Somali language), February 5, 2016,  
View Citations
Arrow down red
Mar '16
Feb '16
Jan '16