March 12, 2012:
After five years of violence, al Shabaab appears to be coming apart. In those five years al Shabaab has been responsible for over 20,000 deaths and much misery in central and southern Somalia. Al Shabaab has antagonized many local leaders with efforts to impose alien lifestyle rules (based on the Saudi Wahhabi form of Islam). Most Somalis reject Wahhabism and a growing number have gotten organized and armed and fought back. Some al Shabaab groups are moving north, seeking a less hostile environment but they meet armed resistance wherever they go.
Troops in Yemen arrested four Somali members of al Shabaab. These are believed to be part of several hundred al Shabaab men who have gone to Yemen to assist al Qaeda efforts to establish a religious dictatorship in southern Yemen (and get away from the increasingly anti-al Shabaab atmosphere in Somalia).
In the north, pirates in Puntland have seized a small freighter bringing goods to adjacent Somaliland and are demanding that Somaliland release fellow pirates imprisoned in Somaliland if they want to get the ship and its cargo. In response, Somaliland has asked tribal leaders in Puntland to help get the ship released. In general, the pirates do not harm ships supplying the areas where pirates operate.
March 10, 2012: Al Shabaab fought Ethiopian troops outside the former terrorist stronghold of Baidoa, as well as the nearby town of Luuq in the southwest. Both sides gave different accounts of casualties, but Ethiopia remained in control of Baidoa. Al Shabaab had been bringing in more gunmen to try and take back Baidoa. Ethiopia plans to leave Baidoa and Beledweyneat the end of April, when more AU (African Union) peacekeepers arrive to take their place. The arrival of several thousand more AU soldiers is regarded as a disaster for al Shabaab, which has taken heavy casualties (especially in terms of desertions) of late and is unable to recruit replacements. The Islamic radicals are kidnapping children (12-15 years old) to make up the shortages, but the inexperienced kids often just get themselves killed in their first action.
In Kenya an al Shabaab member tossed four grenades into a bus station, killing six and wounding over 60. Police later made four arrests. There are Kenyans of Somali ancestry who have sided with al Shabaab and are known to the police.