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 captures the towns of Shaqra and Ahwar in Abyan governorate; AQAP eulogizes Jalal al Bal’idi al Marqishi; al Houthi-Saleh cross-border fire kills two in Saudi Arabia

Horn of Africa: Investigators identify accomplices in Daallo Airlines bombing in Mogadishu; AMISOM and SNA troops retake Marka, Lower Shabelle region; car bomb injures Gedo deputy governor in Bardhere, Gedo region; militants kill intelligence official in Wadajir district, Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) reportedly seized the towns of Shaqra and Ahwar in Abyan governorate, further solidifying its control over the primary east-west road in southern Yemen. The group’s gains follow more than a week of advancement, including the reported capture of towns in both Shabwah and Abyan governorates and the consolidation of control in Zinjibar, Abyan.[1]
  • AQAP confirmed the death of veteran military commander Jalal al Bal’idi al Marqishi on February 5. The eulogy praised al Marqishi for his role in the establishment of AQAP and extended condolences to Abyan’s al Marqishi tribe. Al Marqishi, also known as Hamza al Zinjibari, was the leader of AQAP’s insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia. A reported U.S. airstrike killed al Marqishi and at least two others on the road between Zinjibar and Shaqra in Abyan governorate on February 4.[2]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh shelling killed a Saudi soldier in Asir province and a foreign resident in Najran province, Saudi Arabia on February 6. AFP reported that cross-border attacks have produced 90 civilian and military casualties in Saudi Arabia since March 2015, while a Saudi-led coalition statement on February 1 reported 375 civilian casualties in the same period.[3]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Somali officials suspect two employees at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport of aiding Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, the suicide bomber who detonated an explosive on Daallo Airlines flight 3159 on February 2.  The Somalia National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), aided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), uncovered surveillance footage that shows two men in airport staff uniforms handing what appears to be a laptop to Borleh as he approaches the departure gate.  Borleh used the laptop to detonate a small quantity of explosives, reportedly TNT. It is possible that Borleh detonated the explosives above the plane’s wing in an attempt to ignite the fuel tanks positioned there. The bomber was scheduled for a Turkish Airlines flight but ended up on the Daallo Airlines flight due to inclement weather. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but al Shabaab has a history of targeting Turkish civilians employed at Mogadishu’s airport. [4] 
  • African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) troops retook the port town of Marka in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region from al Shabaab militants early on February 8.  The town, which had been controlled by AMISOM forces since 2012, fell to al Shabaab on February 5 after AMISOM and SNA troops withdrew.  Al Shabaab entered Marka uncontested but clashes broke out on February 7 and 8 as AMISOM and SNA forces attempted to retake the town.[5] 
  • A remote-controlled car bomb targeted the deputy governor of Somalia’s Gedo region on February 7. Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al Qadi was reportedly traveling to his office in Bardhere town when a device detonated in his car, severely injuring him.  No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.[6] 
  • Unknown gunmen killed a senior Somali intelligence official in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district on February 6.  The victim, identified as Abdullahi Dabashe, was the intelligence commander for neighboring Dharkenley district.  No group has claimed responsibility for this attack or a similar failed attack on February 5 in Wadajir, in which a car bomb targeted a senior NISA official.[7]   
[1] “Qaeda tightens its grip on south Yemen coast,” Agence France Presse, February 6, 2016,
[2] “Al Qaeda mourns death of top commander in Yemen,” Reuters, February 6, 2016,
“AQAP announced death of military commander Hamza al-Zinjibari in drone strike,” SITE Intelligence Group, February 5, 2016, source available upon request.
[3] “Cross-border Yemeni shelling kills two in Saudi,” Agence France Presse, February 7, 2016,
“63 children among 375 killed in Yemen attacks into Saudi Arabia,” Saudi Gazette, February 3, 2016,
[4] Drazen Jorgic, “Somalia plane bomber was meant to be on Turkish flight: airline executive,” Reuters Africa, February 8, 2016,
Harun Maruf, “Somali Officials: Man Killed in Plane Bombing Given Laptop Before Flight,” Voice of America, February 7, 2016,
Robyn Kriel and Dana Ford, “TNT caused explosion on Somali Airliner,” CNN, February 5, 2016,  
[5] “Somali recaptures key port of Merka from Al-Shabaab,” Daily Nation, February 8, 2016,
“SNA and AMISOM retake key port town after Al Shabaab retreat,” Shabelle News, February 8, 2016,  
[6] “Breaking News: Gedo Deputy Governor injured in car explosion,” Goobjoog News, February 7, 2016,
[7] “Dharkenley district Intelligence chief killed in drive-by-shooting,” Shabelle News, February 6, 2015,   
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