August 27, 2009: About half the population of Somalia (not counting Puntland and Somaliland up north) are now dependent on foreign food aid. Drought, and disruption caused by endemic clan warfare, have damaged the productivity of agriculture in the area. Threats to cut off free food caused clan and warlord (like al Shabaab) leaders to crack down on the attacks against aid group personnel. Such attacks are about half what they were last year. But it is still difficult to get food to people in many parts of the south (Mogadishu, near the Kenyan border, along the coast). Al Shabaab has been demanding thousands of dollars in "registration" fees from aid groups, who have begun to just ignore the extortion attempts. The attitude has become one of "if you don't want us here, we'll leave." That would be a catastrophe for most Somalis, and the warlords (including al Shabaab) know it. The aid groups are tired of being threatened and pushed around, as they have been for years
Most (as in 70 percent) of the 1.4 million refugees in Somalia are around Mogadishu and to the south, along the coast. This is where a lot of the fighting has been going on, as several factions try to take control of the traditional capital (and major economic center), Mogadishu. The fighting there goes on, but Islamic radical attempts to take control of the city continue to fail. The Islamic radicals have that suicidal spirit, but the Transitional Government has some equally determined fighters, along with 5,000 African peacekeepers. The Islamic radicals, of which al Shabaab is the largest group, are also threatened throughout southern Somalia, by tribal and religious militias that refuse to submit, and are successfully fighting back.
The pirates in Puntland are still active, but are much less successful than last year. More alert and better prepared crews of merchant ships have been avoiding the pirates more often. This year, only 23 percent of attacks succeed, compared to 40 percent last year. The anti-piracy patrol is becoming more aggressive at disarming speedboats full of pirates spotted near merchant ships.
Although hundreds of Islamic radicals have come to Somalia over the past two years, they have been disappointed. The country is a mess, with few modern facilities. Not really much use as a base for international terrorists. Most of these foreign radicals have been drafted into combat units, to provide some more disciplined fighting power for the Somali militias (like al Shabaab) that support Islamic radicalism. It's all very ad hoc, amateurish, and deadly.
August 26, 2009: One of the two French security advisers working for the Transitional Government, who was kidnapped in Mogadishu July 14th, escaped from his sleeping guards (who forgot to bolt his door), and walked five hours, through the outskirts of a darkened, and trigger happy, Mogadishu, using stars for navigation, until he reached the Presidential Palace, and Transitional Government forces. He flew back to France the next day.
August 23, 2009: Al Shabaab, and other radical groups, rejected a government offer of a Ramadan (the annual, month long Moslem period of fasting by day and feasting by night) truce. Ramadan has just begun, and the fighting will continue.
August 22, 2009: Fighting in Mogadishu has been causing over fifty casualties a day for the last few days. Meanwhile, 300 kilometers north of Mogadishu, Ethiopian troops entered the Somali border town of Beledweyn, went to the police station and local army base, and spoke with several residents. The Ethiopians were looking for any evidence of Islamic radicals planning to mount another invasion of Ethiopia (to assist separatist Somali rebels just across the border in Ogaden province, which Somali has long claimed.)
August 21, 2009: Australia outlawed the Somali Islamic radical group al Shabaab. This came in the wake of August 4th arrests of five Somali migrants who were caught planning terror attacks, in the name of al Shabaab. As an outlawed organization, al Shabaab can no longer openly recruit or solicit money or other aid in Australia.