Al Shabaab is not only suffering from battlefield defeats but also from declining popularity. There are several reasons for this. The main problem is that al Shabaab is run by foreigners. The supreme leader is a Pakistani and most of his closest aids are Arabs or Pakistanis. This happened because the foreigners who joined al Shabaab over the last six years were more fanatic and ruthless. Many former al Shabaab leaders and members are now fighting against al Shabaab. Like a growing number of Somalis, these ex-al Shabaab see al Shabaab as a foreign organization. Somalis do not like foreigners, especially those who try to enforce unpopular lifestyle rules and, in general, are contemptuous of Somalis. The foreigners running al Shabaab consider themselves on a mission from God and ignore criticism. But when the criticism comes in the form of gunfire and general hostility, al Shabaab loses personnel, ground and reputation. The result has been the growing (over the last two years) inability to take on large numbers of peacekeepers, government troops and pro-government militia. That led to the loss of Kismayu this year and parts of Mogadishu al Shabaab had held for years. Reduced to the hard core, al Shabaab is now falling back on terrorism. Since this kills more civilians than armed opponents, al Shabaab becomes more hated. But as al Qaeda (which al Shabaab now considers itself part of) has demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other areas, the hard core can keep going for years if there are enough local civilians who will provide some support. Like al Qaeda elsewhere, al Shabaab murders those who criticize them, especially reporters and entertainers who work for radio stations. Because of low literacy rates, radio is the most popular media. Somalis are nothing if not bold and continue criticizing al Shabaab on the radio despite the very real death threats.
The American-French base in Djibouti (Somalia’s northern neighbor) now has eight Predator UAVs and eight F-15E fighter-bombers. There are 2,400 American personnel at the base, 300 of them U.S. Army Special Forces. The aircraft are used for operations in Yemen as well as Somalia. Al Qaeda in Yemen is considered more of a danger to the West, and are probably getting more attention from the Djibouti based aircraft.
Somali pirates currently hold for ransom eleven ships and 170 crew. Pirate attacks are down over 60 percent this year, to a level not seen since 2009.
October 28, 2012: Kenyan police released the photos of four Kenyan Moslems who have joined al Shabaab and are suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Kenya.
October 26, 2012: Somali pirates released an Arab (UAE) cargo ship after being paid $900,000 ransom. The pirates wanted much more but the ship owners would not meet those demands. The pirates killed one of the crew in August but the ship owners refused to give in.
October 25, 2012: In Mogadishu a roadside bomb killed six civilians.
October 24, 2012: Kenyan peacekeepers in Kismayu have arrested 72 al Shabaab suspects and seized weapons. Outside Kismayu a Kenyan soldier was killed during a clash with al Shabaab gunmen.
Off the north coast of Somalia a Dutch frigate sent a boarding party to investigate a suspicious dhow (wooden cargo ship). The boarding party boat came under fire from the dhow and the frigate returned fire. One man aboard the dhow was killed but another 24 were rescued and arrested.
October 22, 2012: Kenyan troops intercepted and arrested five al Shabaab men trying to enter from Somalia.
October 21, 2012: In Kismayu two Kenyan soldiers were wounded and three al Shabaab men killed during a gun battle. In Mogadishu a gunman shot a journalist for Radio Shabelle. This is the fifth reporter for the radio station to be attacked this year.
October 20, 2012: A German court convicted ten Somalis of piracy, sentencing them to prison terms of between two and seven years. The pirates were captured in early 2010. This was the first time in 400 years that a German court prosecuted anyone for piracy.
October 18, 2012: In Puntland police seized a shipment of weapons believed destined for al Shabaab.