March 26, 2011:
Over the last week, the AU (African Union peacekeeper)/TNG (Transitional National Government) offensive has cleared Islamic radical fighters from over a third of the city. Al Shabaab, and its smaller allies, have lost the ability to stand up to these advances. At most, the Islamic radicals can delay the advance with snipers and the occasional ambush. The civilian population is largely hostile to the Islamic radical groups, and are more likely to provide accurate information to AU/TNG forces.
On the Kenyan border, heavy fighting in the town of Dobley. For the last year, Hizbul Islam fighters have fought with their al Shabaab rivals over control of the road that goes through the town. The two groups argued over who should control the road, which carries much of the foreign aid and trade goods coming into the country. The fighting weakened both groups, and allowed TNG forces to move in and clear out all the Islamic radical fighters. The government forces now control most of the town, and the road. This has allowed more drought relief aid to get into the country.
India has increased coast guard patrols off its west coast, and more navy ships are patrolling out into the Arabian Sea (that part of the Indian Ocean between India and the Arabian Peninsula.) In the last six months, the Indians have arrested over a hundred pirates and taken several mother ships.
Al Shabaab has banned the use of money transfers via cell phones, saying this results in unIslamic banking practices. The use of cell phone accounts to store and transfer money has been a boon to undeveloped areas that lacked banks. Al Shabaab leaders seem, like their 1990s Taliban counterparts in Afghanistan, to compete in coming up with new bans that will make the Islamic radicals more unpopular.
March 23, 2011: In Mogadishu, several mortar shells fell in the largest market (Bakara), killing seven and wounding over twenty. This huge market has come to be considered neutral territory, although various clans and political groups have fought to control it in the past. Al Shabaab used to set their mortars up among the market crowds, to discourage peacekeepers from firing back when fire was detected coming from the market. The peacekeepers would fire back anyway, much to the annoyance of al Shabaab. Many civilians have been killed or injured in these actions.
March 18, 2011: In Mozambique, large fishing ships are refusing to go to sea unless the government does something about the Somali pirate threat. There are not believed to be a lot of Somali pirates operating that far south. In fact, it may be only one pirate gang, operating one mother ship. But the pirates like to go after large fishing ships, as they make good mother ships for attacks on even larger merchant ships.
March 16, 2011: The United States and UN has persuaded Puntland to withdraw backing for a thousand man coast guard force, trained and led by foreign mercenaries hired by shipping companies. The UN feared that the mercenary trained force would violate the arms embargo against Somalia, and that a more effective combat force in Somalia might fall under the control of a warlord seeking to become the new dictator of Somalia (the last one was driven from power two decades ago). Actually, the training contract in Puntland is only "suspended", as local officials want the mercenary trained coast guard force, as it appears to be the only way to control the thousands of gunmen working for pirate gangs and warlords. The UN is unable to get many countries to supply peacekeepers for Somalia either.
Pirates hijacked a 7,700 ton bulk carrier (MV Sinar Kudus) off the Somali coast. Instead of heading for an anchorage off the Somali coast, the pirates have forced the crew to head out to sea. Apparently up to fifty pirates are going to use this small merchant vessel as a mother ship. The anti-piracy patrol is now searching for this ship, apparently with the intention of sending commandos aboard to regain control. In the meantime, the pirates on the Sinar Kudus tried to take a larger merchant vessel, but were repelled by armed guards on board.