The increasingly powerful Islamists of Somalia have taken over the southern town of Burhakaba, located about 60 kilometers southeast of Baidoa where the Horn of Africa nation's interim government is based.
The Supreme Council of Islamist Courts (SCIC) that controls central and southern parts of the lawless nation took over the hilltop town after government troops relinquished their brief hold, according to reports reaching here.
Sources said on Tuesday the government forces left Burhakaba before about 1,000 Islamist soldiers entered and recaptured the town without any resistance.
"The government forces withdrew from Burhakaba after they solved the security problems in the town," Abdi Ahmed Jama, the government information minister reportedly said without elaborating on what the security problems were.
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi was slated to speak to a crowd in Burhakaba on Monday but backed out of doing so after the government troops had withdrawn.
The deteriorating situation threatens to hamper a planned third round of Arab League-mediated peace talks between the government and the Islamists set to begin on Nov. 2 in Khartoum.
Both sides had threatened to boycott the meeting, but last week the Islamists said they were ready to attend without conditions.
Both sides have accused the other of violating terms of a partial peace deal. A power-sharing agreement is seen as the only way to restore strong central rule to Somalia, which has been without a functioning central administration since 1991.