Witnesses in Somalia say Islamist insurgents have seized control of Hudur, the capital of the Bakool region.
The insurgent group al-Shabab says on its Web site that its fighters entered Hudur early Friday after government-allied soldiers fled the town late Thursday.
The governor of Bakool confirmed in a phone interview with VOA's Somali service that he and other officials have left the town.
The Bakool region borders Ethiopia, which has thousands of troops in Somalia supporting the country's U.N.-backed administration led by President Abdullahi Yusuf.
Anti-government insurgents have captured other provincial towns in recent months but have usually withdrawn after a short time.
Islamists briefly controlled much of Somalia in 2006 before a joint offensive by the government and Ethiopia pushed them from power. Insurgents have waged an 18-month effort to drive out the Ethiopians and topple the government.