19th-century engraving of the historic Qandala castle town.
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Qandala sits on a wadi estuary, which forms a natural protective harbor for vessels on the Gulf of Aden. It lies 75 kilometres (47 mi) east of Bosaso, 549 kilometres (341 mi) south of Aden, and 475 kilometres (295 mi) west of Socotra.
In antiquity, Qandala was an active trading center for merchants from the interior of the Horn of Africa, who transported goods such as incense, gum and aromatic woods to and from the port. Its nickname Gacanka Hodonka ("Gulf of Prosperity") is a relic from this era.
On 26 October 2016, a militant group linked to ISIL captured Qandala with 50 armed fighters after brief firefight with local security forces, thus becoming the first town to be seized by Islamic State affiliated militants in Somalia. BBC News reported that ISIL militants had withdrawn from the town for unclear reasons. However, the report was denied by other media outlets and claimed that it is false. On 7 December 2016, a Somali official says Puntland security forces have recaptured the port from ISIL-linked fighters, killing 30 militants. Another four soldiers were also killed during the operation.
Qandala has a population of around 19,300 inhabitants.
Qandala has a number of academic institutions. According to the Puntland Ministry of Education, there are 15 primary schools in the Qandala District. Among these are Xamure, Dhadar, Turmasale and Gurur.