At least 15 people were killed during fighting in Somalia Sunday, as Islamic fighters seized a key town near the capital, Mogadishu.
Islamic militia members took over the Balad township after fighting with a faction in Somalia's alliance of warlords, which describes itself as a counterterrorism force.
Balad is important because it is on the road between Mogadishu and the fertile agricultural regions of Middle and Lower Shabelle. Observers say it is the biggest victory for the Islamic militia since fighting broke out early this year.
Balad had been under the control of one of the groups in the warlord alliance that many in Somalia believe is backed by the United States. The United States has refused to confirm or deny that claim.
Fighting between the warring sides has killed more than 320 people in Mogadishu since the beginning of the year.
The Islamic courts say they can bring order to Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for more than 15 years.
The warlord alliance accuses the Islamic court militia of ties to al-Qaida.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.