Garowe — A new Islamic Court has been established in the town of Jowhar, capital of Middle Shabelle region which borders Mogadishu.
Many Jowhar locals have reportedly filed disputes with the Islamic Court, including disagreements over land ownership.
A spokesman, who did not identify himself, told reporters Sunday in Jowhar that the court will rule according to Islamic Shariah law.
"Already, several people have been arrested and are waiting to appear in court," the spokesman said.
The development is a blow to Somalia's interim government, which is backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers.
Since arriving in Mogadishu 17 months ago, the government has faced a bloody insurgency in the capital and other parts of the country, including ambushes, assassinations and roadside bombings.
In recent months, gunmen loyal to the Islamic Courts have seized control of several towns in the central and southern regions of Somalia.
The government, which spends massive resources defending the fortress in Mogadishu, has taken no action as Islamists continue to seize power in the countryside.
In 2006, the Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu and south-central Somalia, where they imposed Shariah law and restored order.
Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces expelled the Islamists from Mogadishu in early 2007, igniting the ongoing insurgency.