January 30, 2012: Al Shabaab is suffering a growing manpower shortage. Casualties and desertions, plus the difficulty of foreign recruits to get into Somalia, have led to a serious shortage of gunmen. Casualties have been much higher in the past few months because of increased combat with Ethiopian, Kenyan, AU (African Union) peacekeepers and with TNG (Transitional National Government) troops. These heavier losses have caused increased desertions and more difficulty in getting local Somalis to join up. So in the last few weeks al Shabaab has taken to kidnapping hundreds of teenagers. These young men can be coerced or encouraged to join al Shabaab. Those that refuse are killed, as an example to the others. These recruits are more likely to surrender or desert and require older, and more loyal, al Shabaab fighters to supervise them.
The famine and violence in the region has caused a record number (102,000) of people from the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia) to flee across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in 2011. That's twice the number that fled in 2010.
January 28, 2012: For the third time in five years the head of a Somali radio station (Radio Shabelle) was murdered. Radio Shabelle has long opposed Islamic terrorism and the endemic corruption in Somalia. Radio Shabelle has been doing this in Mogadishu for a decade now and those they criticize have constantly threatened retaliation.
In Kenya, an inmam (Moslem clergyman) was arrested after weapons and bomb making materials were found in his house.
January 27, 2012: Ethiopia admitted that its troops were in Somalia and that these forces would be withdrawn as soon as AU troops were available to replace them. Several thousand additional AU peacekeepers are on the way.
January 25, 2012: U.S. commandos (navy SEALS) flew into Somalia and rescued two foreign aid workers (an American and a Dane) who had been kidnapped three months ago while working for a demining operation. The American hostage was in failing health and in danger of dying. The SEALS killed at least nine of the armed Somalis guarding the two captives. The raid caused a panic among pirate groups holding 164 other foreign captives. Most of these hostages are held on stolen merchant ships, and the pirates are increasing their defenses on these vessels. Captives held on land are being moved around more frequently. The two rescued captives later reported that one of their security guards, a Somali policeman, was apparently working with the gang that kidnapped them.
January 24, 2012: In the central Somali town of Beledweyne a suicide car bomber attacked an Ethiopian army base, leaving at least ten dead. The town is 30 kilometers from the Ethiopian border and had long been held by al Shabaabb but was captured last month by the Ethiopians.
After a 17 year absence the UN has returned to Mogadishu, where the UN has rebuilt its Somali office. Turkish aid efforts over the last few months did a lot to persuade the UN that Mogadishu was safe enough to return to.
January 22, 2012: In southern Somalia, Kenyan and Somali troops attacked and captured two al Shabaab bases (30 kilometers from the Kenyan border). One Somali and two Kenyan soldiers were killed, along with 11 al Shabaab gunmen.
In Mogadishu, AU peacekeepers attacked and seized al Shabaab bases outside the city. These bases were used to plan and prepare terrorist attacks.
In Mogadishu, one of the few hospitals was hit by two mortar shells.
January 21, 2012: An American UAV used a missile to kill an al Shabaab commander. The dead man was a Lebanese Arab who had grown up in Britain (but was not a British citizen). The victim was apparently located when he used his cell phone to take a call from Britain, where his wife had just given birth.
In the northern town of Galkayo a clan militia kidnapped an American journalist who was researching a book about Somali pirates. The U.S. government has warned its citizens to stay out of Somalia but cannot stop anyone who is determined to go. The clans also want to get in on some of the ransom riches and will kidnap foreigners if an opportunity presents itself. The captives may be sold to pirate groups, for quick cash, if the clan kidnappers find themselves unable to carry out the ransom negotiations (which can take months).
January 19, 2012: A foreign aid group is closing two of its clinics in Mogadishu because of increasing attacks on its staff. This removes 120 hospital beds and dozens of medical professionals from service.
Two bombs went off in a refugee camp outside Mogadishu killing four civilians and two policemen. Al Shabaab was suspected.