Somali Islamists retreated on Tuesday from several frontline positions which have come under heavy attack by Ethiopian forces, officials and witnesses said.
"There is a lot of pressure from every frontline and in order to overcome this war, Islamic fighters have emptied several posts including Burhakaba and Dinsoor," an Islamic commander told the agency on condition of anonymity.
"This action is a military tactic, it is a kind of military retreat," he added.
The move came a day after Ethiopian warplanes bombarded Mogadishu airport and another facility north of the capital, both under the control of the Islamists since June when they routed a US-backed warlord alliance in Mogadishu.
The Islamists pulled off their fighters from two frontlines near the government seat of Baidoa, some 250 kilometres north of the capital and another position in the central region of the lawless nation.
"As of this morning, no single Islamist fighter could be seen. They all left the area overnight," said Osman Adan Rafiyo, a resident of Burhakaba, one of the Islamist strongholds east of Baidoa.
Heavy fighting began on December 20 after the expiry of an ultimatum by the Islamists for Ethiopia to pull its troops out of Somalia, heightening fears of a conflict that could draw in Ethiopia's foe, Eritrea.