The increased warship patrols off the northern coast have reduced the success of pirate attacks to one or two a month. Meanwhile, ransoms are being paid and the ships are leaving. When the pirates no longer hold any ships (and their crews) they will be more vulnerable to attack by Western forces (because the pirates will not be able to threaten their hostages.)
Burundi and Uganda have told that African Union that if more peacekeepers are not sent to Mogadishu, the 3,600 peacekeepers Burundi and Uganda already have their will be withdrawn. Since there is little enthusiasm for sending more peacekeepers, it looks like the current force will be gone in a few months.
In the last two weeks, clan and factional fighting in central Somalia has left over a hundred dead, and forced over 50,000 civilians to flee the area.
About 300 kilometers north of Mogadishu, several factions of Islamic radicals are fighting each other for control of towns that Ethiopian forces have pulled out of (as all Ethiopian troops are withdrawn from the country.) The most worrisome faction is the al Shabab, which advocates the establishment of a religious dictatorship to rule the country, and an alliance with al Qaeda and the quest for world Islamic domination. So far, al Shabab has been taking a beating from the larger Islamic militias. This fighting has caused about a hundred casualties in the last few days.
After four years in existence, the clan and warlord factions that comprise the Transitional National Government (TNG), cannot agree on how to choose a new leader. The TNG factions are not as warlike and active as the Islamic militias, and have lost control of most of southern Somalia.
Fighting continues in Mogadishu, including attacks on the 3,600 foreign peacekeepers (who mainly protect themselves and the airport.) The clan fighting (in the wake of the Ethiopian withdrawal) is causing about a hundred casualties a week.
January 10, 2009: Pirates accepted a $3 million ransom for the release of a Saudi oil tanker (with $100 million in oil on board). Soon after the cash was delivered, a boatload of pirates heading back to shore with their share of the loot, was swamped by high waves. Five of the pirates on board were drowned, and went down with their share of the loot. The next day, at least one of these pirates washed ashore, with his share of the loot ($153,000 in a plastic bag.) Many of the Somalis on shore blamed the warships in the area for the accident, claiming that the drowned pirates were moving at high speed through the high waves, to avoid attack by the foreign warships.
January 8, 2009: For the second time in three days, bandits killed a food aid worker and looted the food and other equipment (in one case a UN vehicle). The bandits are becoming bolder in their attacks on aid workers (most of them local hires.) The aid workers are the best source of stuff to steal. While the air workers sometimes have locally hired armed guards, this is not always the case in "safe" areas. But fewer areas are safe, as the bandits travel around looking for vulnerable aid operations.