December 24, 2010:
In the last year, since al Shabaab began its effort to control all of Somalia, over 20,000 people have died. Most of the casualties have been civilians. Fighting continues in Mogadishu, with the TNG (Transitional National Government) and peacekeepers now controlling more than half the city, and over two-thirds of the population. To keep this up, Uganda is sending another 1,800 troops to Mogadishu, to help drive the Islamic terrorist gunmen out of the deserted areas of the city where they tend to hang out.
The TNG is depending increasingly on the thousands of new troops trained and equipped by Western and AU nations. While the training goes fine, the big danger is the choice of NCOs and officers by the TNG leadership, and the willingness of the TNG to pay the troops on time, and not, as is often the case, steal the payroll. Thousands of troops have already been lost to desertion because of poor treatment by the TNG leadership. Western donors had to threaten and cajole the TNG leadership to shape up in this department.
In the north, Puntland continues to arrest men suspected of supporting al Shabaab, and an Islamic dictatorship in the area. Over a hundred such men have been jailed in the last two weeks.
December 23, 2010: Battered by angry peacekeepers and a growing number of trained troops from the TNG, the two main Islamic terror groups (al Shabaab and the smaller Hizbul Islam) agreed to merge. The immediate cause of this decision was the growing success of the TNG/peacekeepers in clearing the Islamic terrorist fighters out of Mogadishu. The two Islamic terror groups have also been fighting each other, off and on, for over a year, so there was a growing urge to merge. Hizbul has taken more of a beating in the last year, and both terrorist groups are beset by factionalism and desertion. These divisions still exist, especially between those who support foreign terror groups like al Qaeda, and others who want to keep all foreigners out. There are also factions who are not as enthusiastic about imposing strict lifestyle rules (no music, video, sports, or women walking around in Western clothes).
December 22, 2010: The UN authorized the AU to increase its peacekeeper force in Somalia 50 percent (to 12,000 troops). In response, al Shabaab threatened terror attacks in Uganda and Burundi (the two countries that provide the peacekeepers in Mogadishu.)
December 21, 2010: The maritime insurance companies have expanded the area (currently the Gulf of Aden and Somali coastal waters) where ships have to pay a higher premium. The high-risk area now extends to the Gulf of Oman and towards the Seychelles Islands. This can cost a ship passing through these waters over $10,000 more in insurance premiums.
December 20, 2010: Somali pirates seized a 28,000 ton bulk carrier 700 kilometers northeast of the Seychelles islands (which are 1,500 kilometers from Somalia).
In Kenya, a bomb exploded aboard a bus, killing one and wounding 39. It's not yet known if this is the act of Islamic terrorists or gangsters (who use bombs to extort protection money from bus companies.)
December 19, 2010: After several days of negotiations, al Shabaab and the Hizbul Islam announced they were merging. Just a week ago, leaders of the two groups were publically condemning each other, but apparently moderates in both groups prevailed.
December 16, 2010: Somali pirates tried, and failed, to seize a tanker some 500 kilometers off the coast of India.