Al Shabaab is falling apart because of disputes over the power and influence of al Qaeda members who have taken over leadership of the Islamic radical group. It's the al Qaeda fanatics that are proposing, and enforcing, the mandatory use of Islamic law and lifestyle. While some Somali al Shabaab go along with this, more and more (apparently the majority) don't. Smaller ally, Hizbul Islam, also opposes the influence of the foreigners, and has been increasingly at war with their erstwhile allies because of this. Increasingly, the foreigners are using force to keep Somali al Shabaab in line. This is a familiar situation, that has already played out in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The foreign fanatics eventually lose, getting killed or driven out of the country. It's rather more common for coalitions to come apart violently in Somalia.
The al Qaeda men in Somalia know their own history, and are trying to prevent a repeat. But placating Somalis is difficult, and al Qaeda attracts the kind of people who prefer to just use brute force to get their way. Playing rough with Somalis usually ends up creating more violence, not decreasing it.
December 27, 2009: China announced that it had rescued the Chinese coal ship, the De Xin Hai, and its 25 Chinese sailors, off the coast of Somalia. What was not mentioned was the payment of a $3.5 million ransom, and the pirates then leaving the ship. The seizure of the ship, two months ago, despite the presence of Chinese warships and commandos in the area, was embarrassing for the Chinese government. Little was said, in the government controlled press, about the De Xin Hai. But the chatter on the Internet was less than flattering for the government. That apparently led to the attempt to spin the ransom payment as a military rescue mission.
December 24, 2009: In Puntland, a land dispute between members of the Galmudug clan and government officials, left at least nine dead.
December 23, 2009: The UN imposed sanctions on Eritrea, making it more difficult for that country to ship weapons and military equipment to terrorist groups in Somalia. Eritrea, a client state of Iran, is also serving as a base for smuggling weapons to Iranian backed Shia rebels in Yemen. The UN resolution also called for Eritrea to halt its border war with Djibouti.
December 21, 2009: Violence in Mogadishu left at least eight dead. Al Shabaab used bombs and mortars to interfere with parliament meeting.