The Somali capital, Mogadishu, is reported to be in chaos after Islamist forces, which had controlled the city for nearly seven months, abandoned it early Thursday. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu has the latest from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.
As Ethiopian-backed government troops advanced to within 30 kilometers of Mogadishu, witnesses say they saw Islamist forces leave the capital in a convoy of trucks, heading south toward the port city, Kismayo.
Mogadishu-based Somali journalist Omar Faruk Osman tells VOA the Islamists' sudden departure has sparked violence and looting throughout the city.
"There is a high level of anarchy and widespread insecurity," Osman says. "People, they have taken guns to protect themselves and their properties."
Islamist leaders, some of whom are believed to have ties to al-Qaida, say their forces withdrew from Mogadishu to avert bloodshed.
Neighboring Ethiopia, which provided the military muscle to oust the Islamists, has been the main supporter of Somalia's two-year secular interim government in Baidoa.
The government, which is internationally-recognized, had been too militarily weak to challenge the Islamists, until now.