January 7, 2011:
Three years ago, when the UN re-authorized anti-piracy operations off Somalia, commando operations against land targets were also allowed. But no country wanted to try this, at least on a large scale and regular basis. That has changed, with several nations calling for a coordinated plan to hit key pirate land targets (pirate leaders and ports containing many mother ships or weapons.) So far it's all talk, but specific talk about going after the ability of the pirate gangs to function. The continued payment of large (average now about $5 million per ship) ransoms for insured ships, is attracting more warlords, who are forming more pirate gangs and sending more mother ships out than the anti-piracy patrol can handle. Thus the increased talk of commando raids.
Several Somali pirate gangs have shifted their operations to the northeast, in the busy shipping lanes south of the entrance to the Arabian (formerly Persian) Gulf . Attacks are also occurring down the East African coast (as far south as Mozambique) and as far east as the Indian coast. All this despite the efforts of the anti-piracy patrol to detect and destroy the mother ships headed up there to find ships to hijack. The merchant ships at risk have been warned of the new danger, and several attacks have been avoided either by maneuvering, or the use of safe rooms (which keep the crews away from the pirates long enough for marines or commandos to arrive). The pirates usually abandon the ship when they encounter a safe room, stealing anything portable as they do so.
The pirate gangs currently hold 28 ships (and 654 crewmembers) that have insurance, and a dozen or more smaller ones (often small wooden fishing ships or coastal freighters) that do not. The crews of these ships are often killed, forced to work as slaves for a while, or just released in northern Somalia to find their own way home. Some join the pirates, although not always by choice.
Several years of fighting in Mogadishu has created over half a million refugees living in makeshift refugee camps outside the city and along the major roads leading to the city, and even father away. UN manages to get aid to these people, and most of it is paid for by Western nations, particularly the United States. The aid goes north and south of the city, wherever the Islamic radicals or bandits do not make it impossible to deliver. In areas where Islamic terrorists, or bandits, make it impossible to deliver aid, the very young and very old are starving to death.
Sporadic attacks continue in Mogadishu, with the newly united (Hizbul Islam and al Shabaab) terrorists not showing much increased strength on the ground. Meanwhile, Al Shabaab is openly calling for Somalis living abroad to launch terror attacks. This has prompted hundreds of Somali men to actually attempt to organize terrorist operations. An increasing number are being detected and arrested. While the majority of these refugees are grateful for finding a new home, this has not eliminated the desire to undertake violence in the name of Islam. So far, most of the Islamic terrorists in the Somali expatriate community have been revealed via tips from other Somali refugees, or counter-terrorist monitoring operations (particularly of the Internet.) But this has exposed another problem, of Somali criminals running an extortion scam, where fellow Somalis are told to pay the extortionist some money, or else the extortionists will tell police that the victims are engaged in terrorist activity. The extortionists often fabricate convincing evidence, which requires some effort by investigators to debunk.
January 2, 2011: TNG (Transitional National Government) and peacekeeper troops in Mogadishu have banned women from wearing a veil at checkpoints. Islamic terrorist gunmen have been dressing as women, including a veil to cover all but their eyes, to get by the checkpoints.
Corruption in the TNG forces continues, and a group of soldiers, complaining that their commanders had not paid them (a common problem in Somalia), tried to block access to a government compound. Fighting broke out, and three were killed and seven wounded before TNG officials showed up and apparently paid the troops. Corruption has long been a major problem in Somalia. It is kept under control if it is carefully organized, but that is often difficult to do. Foreign aid creates problems, as the groups that receive it see no reason to share. Moreover, any man with a gun believes being armed is a license to steal, or at least extort "tips" from anyone he encounters who is unarmed.
January 1, 2011: In Mogadishu, al Shabaab fighters made several attacks, but were repulsed. The fighting caused over fifty casualties.