Islamic insurgents took over police stations in the Somali capital on Saturday as Ethiopian troops pulled out, raising fears the Ethiopians' departure will set off a violent scramble for control over the country, witnesses said.
Ethiopia has been propping up Somalia's weak government for two years, but vowed to leave by the end of 2008. Officials have since declined to give an exact date because amid concerns of a power vacuum. The thousands of Ethiopian troops are being pulled out in stages.
Many fear the pullout--and last month's resignation of Somalia's president--will cause lawmakers and various Islamic militant groups to jockey for power.
The government controls only Baidoa, the seat of Parliament, and pockets of the capital, Mogadishu.
Abdirahim Issa Adow, a spokesman for one wing of the insurgency, said he deployed troops to three of Mogadishu's 14 police stations to ensure the capital does not erupt in violence.
"We have to show commitment to do our part in security, we want to help people feel secure," Adow told The Associated Press.
His Union of Islamic Courts is not allied to the most powerful insurgent group, al-Shabab.
The Ethiopians were called on in 2006 to prop up the UN-backed government and rout Islamic militants who had taken over most of the country.