Somalia's Islamist leaders have fled their Mogadishu stronghold and government troops were poised to take the capital in the next few hours, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
"The Islamic courts leaders have dispersed in thin air," government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said, adding that the leaders had fled to the southern port of Kismayu.
"Our forces already effectively control Mogadishu because we have taken over the two control points on the main roads outside the city," he said by telephone from the government's base Baidoa.
"Within 2 to 3 hours we will capture the whole city."
Dinari said the interim government now controlled 95 percent of the Horn of Africa nation which has been at war for a week.
Prime Minister Ali Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf remained in Baidoa but would move to Mogadishu at "the earliest appropriate opportunity", Dinari said.
The government maintained its offer of amnesty to all Islamist fighters who laid down their weapons, he added.
But foreign radicals fighting alongside the Islamists would be pursued and brought to justice, Dinari said.
"We appeal to Kenya and all our other neighbors to help us capture these terrorist elements," he said.
Before fleeing Mogadishu, the Islamist leaders had opened up their weapon stores, Dinari said. "They want to create chaos."