March 29, 2012:
In the far south Kenyan troops are finding that their allies, two local anti-Shabaab militias, both affiliated with the TNG (Transitional National Government), don't get along. This is common with tribal militias in Somalia. Even al Shabaab has problems with this factionalism. The Kenyan allies often will not cooperate and sometimes threaten Kenyan troops or refuse orders, or requests, to operate against al Shabaab.
Kenyan troops have proved too much for al Shabaab to handle. The Kenyan troops are better trained, armed, and led. Most importantly, the Kenyans have air power, for reconnaissance and bombing. Local allies also provide lots of intelligence and help with guarding towns and roads. This has kept al Shabaab on the defensive, moving back when the Kenyans advance. But the Kenyans are reluctant to go after the major al Shabaab base, the port of Kismayo. Al Shabaab would be declared dead (even though they would still be around) if Kismayo were lost, so the Kenyans are aware that it would be a major fight to take the port. The Kenyans are hoping al Shabaab will weaken sufficiently that they will simply abandon Kismayo. This is unlikely but the Kenyans remain hopeful.
March 26, 2012: For the third time, al Shabaab men in Mogadishu fired several mortar shells at the presidential palace but again missed and hit civilians, killing two this time. There are very few al Shabaab left in Mogadishu, but those that remain have fallen back on terrorism.
Ethiopian and local Sufi militiamen pushed al Shabaab out of the southern town of El Bur, which is 150 kilometers from the Ethiopian border. This is the fourth town Ethiopian forces have helped force al Shabaab out of in the last four months. Al Shabaab, weakened by desertions, casualties, and fewer recruits, has been forced out of a growing number of areas in the past year. This further demoralizes al Shabaab members and reduces their ranks still more.
March 25, 2012: For the first time Somali pirates seized a merchant ship off the Maldives islands, which are 3,000 kilometers from Somalia. The pirates have to go farther from Somalia to avoid detection and capture by the anti-piracy patrol.
March 23, 2012: The EU agreed to extend its anti-piracy patrol two years and allow EU forces to attack pirates on land. Exactly what form this will take is still unclear. Meanwhile, the anti-piracy patrol has quietly adopted more aggressive tactics against the pirates over the last year. Warships know what pirate mother ships look like and go after them constantly. The mother ships are boarded and inspected. Even if the pirates have thrown their weapons and boarding gear overboard, it's hard for the Somalis to hide the fact that they are not fishermen. The Somalis are arrested and left with only enough fuel and water to get back to Somalia, or their mother ship is sunk and the Somalis are taken back to Somalia and left on a beach. If the original crew of fishermen is present they get their ship back. While this is still "catch and release", the pirates consider the loss of equipment or mother ships (which are stolen sea-going fishing ships) a cost of doing business. These crews of captured fishing ships are often forced to work for the pirates (running the ship under pirate orders) or are killed. The fishing ship crews are the little noted victims of the Somali pirates. Some of these ships are ransomed, but most are used for a while and released with their crews (usually as a reward for participating in the capture of a larger ship) or the crew is killed and the ships are used until pirate mismanagement renders them useless, or the ships are destroyed by the anti-piracy patrol. It takes time to restock a mother ship, or get another one, and so many mother ships have been lost that the pirates are less frequently at sea. Those that are out there are easier to keep track of.
March 22, 2012: Ethiopian and local Sufi militiamen pushed al Shabaab out of the town of Hudur, which is 100 kilometers from the Ethiopian border. This is the third town Ethiopian forces have helped liberate from al Shabaab in the last four months.