January 21, 2013: The UN is trying to pressure the Somali government to halt the criminal activity by their troops and pro-government militias. These men have been more frequently caught by journalists robbing, raping, and killing civilians. The deaths of children are particularly embarrassing to donor nations. Peacekeepers are also under pressure to reduce civilian casualties. This is not easy as al Shabaab (and Somali gunmen in general) often use civilians as human shields. Despite this, members of the Somali government criticize the peacekeepers over civilian casualties and arrest journalists who report on army atrocities. Such criticism is useful as it puts the peacekeepers on the defensive and more willing to look the other way when the critics are caught doing something illegal.
Somali pirates attacked 75 ships last year and captured 14 along with 250 sailors. That was way down from 409 in 2009. No ships have been captured since last June. The pirates currently hold eight ships and 127 sailors for ransom. Because of the greater difficulty in attacking ships (because of more efficient warship use, more armed guards, and more alert crews on merchant ships) several major pirate gangs have simply shut down.
Peacekeepers continue to shut down al Shabaab bases in towns and villages throughout Somalia. In the north there is a concentration of al Shabaab men in Puntland, protected by a local warlord who controls some mountainous territory along the border with Somalia. The peacekeepers cannot enter Puntland without permission from Puntland, and negotiations have begun to obtain this cooperation.
Al Shabaab tries to halt these operations with ambushes and roadside bombs, but that only slows it down and causes a lot of al Shabaab casualties. Some al Shabaab have fled to Kenya, where they kill Kenyans or, more frequently, raid the main refugee camp in Kenya, where half a million Somali refugees are staying. Because of this violence, and fewer al Shabaab in Somalia, many of these refugees are returning to Somalia.
Al Shabaab ordered one of their members, American born (but with a Syrian father) Abu Mansoor al Amriki (Omar Hammami), to turn himself in by the 19th or be hunted down and killed. Hammami apparently did not surrender and is now being hunted by al Shabaab. Last December it was announced that Hammami had been expelled from al Shabaab. Hammami had previously been a video (via the Internet) spokesman for the terrorist group. But now he was accused of spreading discord and disunity inside al Shabaab. For example, last March Hammami released a video claiming that some al Shabaab members were out to kill him because of a dispute within al Shabaab over enforcing Islamic lifestyle rules. Hammami later accused al Shabaab leaders of corruption and incompetence. Al Shabaab quickly announced that no one was out to kill Hammami (who apparently was not reassured). The al Shabaab leadership also made it clear that Hammami was no longer their spokesman. Because Hammami did not take the hint and shut up, the terrorists are now out to silence this troublesome American anyway they can. Hammami has been with al Shabaab for seven years and has been a public face of the terrorists via his video releases on the Internet. Hammami grew up in Alabama but came to Somalia and joined al Shabaab seven years ago. Once he began appearing in al Shabaab videos he became a target for those fighting Islamic terrorists. Hammami has managed to avoid getting hurt, but that may change now that everyone is out to get him. Hammami has some supporters inside Somalia but not enough to fight off a determined al Shabaab effort. Hammami is expected to flee Somalia, although potential refuges are few. The FBI named Hammami one of their most-wanted felons last November.
January 18, 2013: Al Shabaab announced they had killed the French intelligence agent they have held since 2009. This was done in response to the French commando raid on the 13th that failed to free the agent but did kill many al Shabaab members.
The U.S. officially recognized the new government of Somalia. This is the first time since 1991 that Somalia has had a government that was internationally recognized.
January 16, 2013: In eastern Kenya (Garissa), near the Somali border, gunmen entered a restaurant, opened fire, and fled. Four people were killed and six wounded. This was believed to be an al Shabaab sponsored attack, in an effort to get Kenyan peacekeepers out of Somalia.
January 14, 2013: The Somali government complained that they were not informed beforehand of the French commando raid two days ago. Not discussed was the fact that the Somali government is so corrupt that you cannot inform them of commando raids because there is too great a chance that a government official would sell that information to the terrorists.
January 12, 2013: French commandoes raided an al Shabaab base 80 kilometers from Mogadishu to free a French intelligence agent held since 2009. While the 50 French special operations troops had the advantage coming in before dawn, there was more al Shabaab gunmen than expected. The French killed at least 17 terrorists but lost two of their own. Four or more civilians were also killed. One of the commandos was dead on the spot, the other was badly wounded and captured by the terrorists. The agent they had come to rescue was not found. The wounded commando died within a day and his body was shown on the Internet. The French suspect that someone near the border noted the five helicopters headed for the al Shabaab base and gave the terrorists a few minutes to wake their men and get ready for the commando assault. The commandos came from a base in nearby Djibouti, which has hosted a joint French-U.S. special operations complex for over a decade. Apparently at least one American support aircraft accompanied the French helicopters but was not involved in the fighting.