October 22, 2009: The Somali pirates are now holding six merchant ships and 146 seamen. There have been 147 attacks by Somali pirates in the first nine months of 2009. But the increasing size and activity of the anti-piracy patrol has restricted pirate activity. There were 43 attacks and 6 ships seized between June to October this year, compared to 57 attacks on ships and 23 hijackings during the same period in 2008.
In Mogadishu, al Shabaab again fired mortar shells on a major market and the airport, causing over a dozen casualties. AU peacekeepers fired artillery back at al Shabaab, causing more casualties.
Al Shabaab is making itself very unpopular (despite having suppressed much criminal behavior) by enforcing lifestyle rules. The latest bans are on bras, which are considered a "deception." Women are forced to jiggle their unrestrained breasts to al Shabaab enforcers, to prove they are not deceiving anyone, or risk a whipping. Al Shabaab has also banned movies, musical ringtones, dancing, TV entertainment (religious instruction allowed) and playing or watching sports. Two radio stations in Baidoa were shut down for not following the strict Islamic lifestyle rules. Al Shabaab also destroys the mosques and cemeteries of Sufi Moslems. This has led to many Sufis organizing and fighting back against Islamic radicals who consider Sufis heretics (an uncommon attitude in Islam, but one supported by the Wahabi strain of Islam that influences groups like al Qaeda and al Shabaab.) The Sufi fighters have often proved to be more than al Shabaab can handle, and the Islamic radicals have been driven out of several central Somali towns. The Sufis militia is not part of the Transitional Government, but another independent, "local defense force."
Al Shabaab is running into the same problems Islamic radicals encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the lifestyle police start operating, the faithful become increasingly hostile to the radicals, and eventually organize resistance. That is already happening, and some of the clan militias that agreed to ally with al Shabaab, have now switched sides and joined the Transitional Government.
October 21, 2009: Hizbu Islam and Al Shabaab fighters clashed again 90 kilometers west of the key southern port of Kismayo. Over the last two weeks, al Shabaab has driven rival Islamic radical group from Hizbu Islam Kismayo, after both groups argued over how to jointly run the lucrative port.
October 19, 2009: Somali pirates seized a Chinese bulk carrier (full of coal), 1,300 kilometers off the east coast. This is the farthest from the coast a ship has ever been seized. China responded by insisting that it would do whatever necessary to free the ship (implying the use of force, rather than paying ransom.) China is trying to organize a commando operation, for which is needs assistance from the U.S., to maximize chances of success.
October 15, 2009: A Singaporean cargo ship was seized by pirates, 500 kilometers north of the Seychelles islands, as it headed for the Kenyan port of Mombassa. This is alarming for the Kenyans, whose economy is very dependent on sea access to this major East African port. The pirates are now threatening he waters off East Africa.