Al Shabaab is still active, having largely settled an internal power struggle and found new sources of income by more aggressive use of extortion. This is done via widespread use of terror out in the countryside. Anyone with money (businesses and large farming operations) are expected to pay or face attack (beatings, death, or taking family members as hostages). The loss of Kismayo last year was a major blow to al Shabaab finances because that port could be used to smuggle illegal goods (especially ivory) out of the country. Al Shabaab also collected fees on anything leaving or entering via Kismayo. Now al Shabaab has limited, and irregular, access to smaller ports on the coast. The sudden loss of income from Kismayo led to many desertions and the inability to make attacks. But not all of the Islamic terrorists were gone and the hard core fought each other in June and July to decide who would control the organization and what the post-collapse strategy would be. Young men were still willing to join for religious, nationalist, or financial reasons. Living off extortion and other criminal enterprises has always been popular in Somalia, where warlords who could cobble together and maintain a private army were respected. The difference this time is that al Shabaab considers itself part of an international Islamic terrorist movement (al Qaeda) and welcomes foreign recruits. Generally, foreigners are not popular in Somali culture and are looked on as source profit, not a welcome guest. These Islamic terrorist foreigners are often used for suicide attacks because they are more fanatic and not experienced fighters (and can’t speak the local languages). These foreigners boost morale among the Somali members because it indicates international support for their cause. On the down side, the terror attacks kill more civilians than peacekeepers, police, or local soldiers and makes the Islamic terrorists unpopular with most Somalis. That is not a concern with al Shabaab right now, as they would rather be feared than loved. This is especially true within the organization, where there are still many Somali men who consider themselves al Shabaab but disagree with the current leadership. Paranoia and ready recourse to violence still defines the organization, which now considers itself part of an international movement.
This year Kenyan police have arrested 10-20 (or more) young men at the Somali border each month because the non-Somali travelers were suspected of heading north to join al Shabaab. Background checks often proved this to be the case and the men are deported. Most of those stopped at the border are from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Al Shabaab continues to try and impose lifestyle restrictions, even though they do not have day-to-day control in many areas. The latest annoying edict is to ban smart phones. That’s because you can use these devices to get on the Internet and find porn. According to al Shabaab this means any picture (especially videos) of a woman showing skin. Not all, just a lot more than al Shabaab allows on the street. Previous attempts to ban cell phones in general failed because these devices are too popular but al Shabaab persists, if only because many Somalis will use their cell phones to let the security forces know what the Islamic terrorists are up to.
Kenya wants over 500,000 Somali refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp to go home as soon as possible. The UN, which runs the camp, says this could take up to ten years. Kenya is now talking about ignoring the UN and speeding up the repatriation process. The Dadaad population is a source of crime and economic disruption in northern Kenya. Islamic terrorists are known to live there and were often recruited there to begin with. Kenya already plans to force foreign aid agencies to move to Somalia, believing the refugees would be inclined to follow. About 50,000 Somali refugees have left Dadaab and gone back to Somalia this year, but even more have arrived at Dadaab from Somalia. There are over 500,000 additional Somalis in Kenya illegally, often using false documents. These will be harder to find and sent back to Somalia.
Kenyan police have identified the four Somali men for helping plan and carry out the Westgate Mall attack in September. All four of the attackers died, but police have uncovered a network of Somalis and non-Somalis in Kenya who aided the attackers and traced the movements of the four men in the months prior to the attack. The four crossed into Kenya in June and went to live in a Somali neighborhood in Nairobi. There they made their final preparations, including many visits to the mall to familiarize themselves with the place. The four days of shooting and explosions inside the mall were largely the result of incompetent leadership from the security forces. At least 67 people died in the mall and 27 remain unaccounted for.
November 21, 2013: In the central Somali town of Beledweyne, police arrested over 200 people in the wake of an al Shabaab attack on the 19th.
November 19, 2013: In Beledweyne al Shabaab attacked a police station, killing 4 policemen and 10 civilians. At least 10 of the attackers were also killed or wounded.
November 17, 2013: In the southeast (lower Shabelle region) local clan militia fought with government forces, leaving 15 dead and two dozen wounded. Many clans are hostile to any sort of central government.
November 15, 2013: The UN has authorized a temporary increase in the peacekeeper force to 22,000 troops (from the current 18,000). This would allow a more intense and persistent effort against al Shabaab. The belief is that if enough damage can be done to the Islamic terrorist organization, Somali security forces and local clan militias can deal with the al Shabaab remnants long term.
November 10, 2013: Kenya and Somalis signed an agreement whereby Somalia agreed to take back over a million ethnic Somalis in Kenya over the next three years. In return Kenya agreed not to forcibly expel Somalis during that time, as long as Somalia accepts the returnees.
In the southeast (lower Shabelle region) two al Shabaab factions fought, leaving at least 10 of the Islamic terrorists dead.
November 8, 2013: In Mogadishu a suicide car bomber attacked a hotel, leaving 5 dead and 15 wounded.
In the north (Puntland) some twenty al Shabaab men attacked a prison to free some fellow Islamic terrorists. While three prison guard and an undetermined number of attackers were killed, the breakout attempt failed.