Witnesses in Somalia say government troops seized control of a strategically located town Saturday after a firefight with pro-Islamic militias.
The fighting occurred in the town of Bur Hakaba, 60 kilometers southeast of Baidoa. The town lies between the capital, Mogadishu, and the provincial town of Baidoa, which is the Western-backed interim government's temporary seat and only area of control.
Earlier this month, government forces briefly took control of Bur Hakaba. Witnesses said government forces were backed by Ethiopian troops at that time. Both Ethiopia and Somalia deny any Ethiopian troops are in the country.
Islamists seized Mogadishu in June and have since taken control of other areas in southern Somalia. They have declared holy war against Ethiopia, accusing Addis Ababa of sending troops into Somalia to help the weak interim government.
Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords toppled former President Mohammed Siad Barre and threw the country into anarchy.