Thousands of residents of Kismayo have fled the city in the last week, fearing that an AU led assault on the city is imminent. Al Shabaab apparently does not believe it can hold onto Kismayo, as many of its best fighters have been sent to new camps in the jungles of southwest Somalia (on the Kenyan border) or the mountains of the northeast (on the Puntland border). Al Shabaab still attracts recruits, because of their history of fighting corruption and avoiding clan-based feuds. Both of these curses have long prevented good government in Somalia and still do so. The new government is as corrupt as ever and tribal frictions still impede good government.
Al Shabaab has made itself unpopular with most Somalis because of the strict interpretation of Islam (no music, video, booze, jobs for women, or shaving for men) and forcing it on Somalis. Another liability was the use of foreign Islamic fanatics (mostly al Qaeda men). Somalis don't like being ordered around by foreigners, especially self-righteous religious bigots telling people how to live and attacking those who resist. Al Shabaab made a big mistake when they merged with al Qaeda and joined the fight to turn the entire planet into a religious dictatorship. Global domination has never been high on the average Somalis' wish list. Taking Kismayo will be easy compared to destroying the remaining al Shabaab groups in the southwest and northeast.
The AU has brought in more helicopters and warships for the assault on Kismayo, which is expected to take place within a week. Most of the fighting is expected to be done by Kenyan troops.
September 3, 2012: In Kenya (Mombassa) a radical Islamic cleric (Abubaker Shariff Ahmed) was arrested and charged with inciting violence after the murder of another radical cleric last week. Ahmed called for Kenyan Moslems (many of whom are ethnic Somalis) to attack the police (three died in subsequent violence) and Christian churches (several were damaged). About 11 percent of 43 million Kenyans are Moslem, and most live in coastal cities like Mombasa (where about a third of the population is Moslem).
September 2, 2012: After two days of fighting, AU and Somali forces captured the fortified town of Mido, which is 86 kilometers from the port of Kismayo. Al Shabaab suffered about a hundred casualties trying to defend Mido and most survivors fled towards Kismayo. Helicopter gunships attacked the fleeing al Shabaab men, increasing their total casualties for the Mido battle to over 200, with at least 70 killed. AU losses (including Kenya, whose troops are now part of the AU peacekeeping force) were about fifty.
September 1, 2012: Al Shabaab released a video of their fighters dragging the bodies of four dead AU soldiers through the city streets behind a vehicle.
In Puntland a pirate commander killed a Syrian sailor and wounded another to try and speed up ransom negotiations for an Egyptian cargo ship that was seized 21 months ago while carrying 26,000 tons of coal. Last June the 19 man crew and their pirate guards fled the ship when a fire broke out in the galley. Some pirates put the fire out but there was extensive damage to the bridge and living quarters. Somali pirates are still holding 176 hostages, some of them for over 30 months (one crew is from a ship whose owner has, in effect, abandoned the ship and its crew).
August 28, 2012: In Mogadishu the newly elected parliament elected a former labor minister as speaker of the parliament.
August 27, 2012: In Mombasa, Kenya unknown gunmen fired on a car carrying an Islamic radical cleric, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, killing him. Popularly known as "Rogo", he was publicly accused by the United States and Kenya of supporting al Shabaab and aiding recruiting and fund raising for the Islamic terrorists. A UN report a month earlier had documented Rogo's assistance for al Shabaab. Neither Rogo nor other Kenyan Islamic radical clerics did anything that would enable police to arrest and hold them for long. But Rogo did visit Somalia frequently and was often seen meeting with al Shabaab leaders. The death of Rogo and several other outspoken Kenyan supporters of al Shabaab is generally believed (especially by Kenyan Moslems) to be the work of illegal police death squads. There is a great deal of animosity between Christian and Moslem Kenyans. This goes beyond the usual Moslem hostility and violence towards infidels (non-Moslems). For centuries Moslems ran the coastal cities of Kenya but then the British showed up in the 19th century and converted most of the pagan Kenyans to Christianity during the early 20th century. The British then established schools for these new Christians and favored Christians for jobs in the colonial government. When the British left in 1963 (after over a decade of anti-colonial violence) the Christian majority ran the country, to the dismay of the Moslem minority.
AU peacekeepers and Somali troops drove al Shabaab gunmen out of the port town of Marka, which is 70 kilometers south of Mogadishu. The al Shabaab men in this town provided a base for al Shabaab terrorists carrying out attacks in Mogadishu.
August 26, 2012: In Nairobi, Kenya someone threw a grenade into a church, killing one person and wounding a dozen.