A Somali Islamic courts leader has said that all the group's forces have withdrawn from the capital, Mogadishu, while Ethiopian occupation forces have pledged to gain control of the city within hours.
Ethiopian troops have advanced to positions 30km north and northeast of Mogadishu.
"We have withdrawn all the leaders and members who worked in the capital," Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, leader of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, told Al Jazeera television by telephone.
He said the Somali Islamic courts remain united and described the withdrawal as a change in tactics.
"The capital has witnessed 19 years of fighting," he said. "The Ethiopians want to bombard Mogadishu, so we withdrew in order not to give them this opportunity.
"Mogadishu is in a state of disorder and gangs, who are backed by Ethiopia and Baidoa groups, have started stealing and robbing.
"There are no Islamic courts forces [there]. It is the Somali people who are resisting."
Ahmed said that the withdrawal would avoid more bloodshed in the capital.
"We did not leave the capital to chaos. We left it to avert heavy bombing because Ethiopian forces are practicing genocide against the Somali people," he said.
Residents living south of Mogadishu said that they have seen convoys of Islamic courts fighters driving south.
Ahmed said: "God willing, we will drive out these forces that entered Somalia to destroy what was achieved in the past few months. We have a plan to drive these forces out."
Witnesses confirmed reports that Somali troops are heading towards Mogadishu, with one claiming that more than 70 Ethiopian tanks have headed to the capital.
The majority of gunfire has taken place north of the capital.
One witness in Mogadishu said machine-gun fire was heard in the Sinaai neighborhood north of the capital, while residents said Ethiopian occupation troops were approaching the city.
Former warlord returns to Mogadishu, as the islamic forces took to the woods with their weapons, not much heavy fighting reported as ethiopian forces advanced.
The Islamic Courts insist that their withdrawal is a new tactic aim to keep their troops from defeat, most of the cities fell with out a fight as the Islamist heads ordered their troops to move to the mountains and woods digging for a long gorilla tactics to drive the ethiopian troops out. Both the heads of the security for the Islamists Abu Mansuur and Sheikh Yusuf Indho-Adde are still in Saudi Arabia performing hajj.
The Islamic troops are "intact and vowed to teach the ethipian troops a lesson the world would not forget" according to the Islamic Courts leaders in the port city of Kismayo in the Jubba region, most of whom fought the battles in the Dinsoor.
Most people in Mogadishu fear warlords revenge attacks if Mogadishu falls, but the Islamist vowed that victory would be theirs soon in the end (inshAllah).
Prominent figures who would be targeted in clan based warlords revenge attacks could be the former president of Somalia Abdi Qaasim Salad a prominent figure who armed and funded the Islamic Courts during his presidency in 2000 - 2004, General Galaal former Somali army general who defeated the ethiopians in 1977 war, ethiopians are eager to get their hands on him, also business man Umar Adaan the head of the Somali ports, who also funded the Islamic Courts.
KC and Agencies