The Islamic Courts Union has taken control of another town in Somalia, raising fears that scheduled peace talks between it and the transitional Somali government may not take place.
The town of Sakow, 170 kilometers southwest of Baidoa where the transitional Somali government is based, is under the control of the Islamic Courts Union.
The secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, Omar Faruk Osman, describes to VOA what occurred late Wednesday in the agricultural town.
"The militias of the Juba Valley Alliance, who is also [the militias of] the Minister of Defense and the transitional government, withdrew from Sakow yesterday evening, and the militias of the Islamic Courts reached Sakow yesterday evening, peacefully," he said. "There was no fighting or confrontation between the militias."
The courts first started its expansion back in June, when it took control of the capital Mogadishu. It has since captured much of southern Somalia, the most recent battles being in the towns of Burahakaba near Baidoa and the port of Kismayo.
Somalia's interim government and the Union of Islamic Courts have been trying to negotiate a peace agreement that would see some sort of a power-sharing arrangement between them.
The two met in Sudan last month and are scheduled to finalize their agreement on Monday.
But fears are increasing that the talks may not happen.
"As it seems now, both sides are mobilizing armies, both sides are planning to capture new areas. Instead of the dialogue expected to be held at the end of this month, I think that both sides are planning to go to war," said Omar Faruk Osman.
Meanwhile, tension is mounting over eyewitness reports that Somali and Ethiopian forces Wednesday were digging trenches at the entrance of the government's base in anticipation of a possible attack by the Islamists.
Since civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub-clan-based factions have controlled different parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order and even basic services to the population.
A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago following a peace process.