Somalis flee Afgoye advance by African Union troops
Thousands of Somalis are fleeing fighting as African Union forces advance on Afgoye, an Islamist stronghold near the capital, Mogadishu.
The troops have advanced to within 10km (six miles) of the key town held by al-Shabab, an AU spokesman told the BBC.
Residents in the area between the capital and Afgoye told the BBC many people had either left for Mogadishu or fled into surrounding countryside.
Al-Shabab is under pressure on a number of military fronts in the country.
But the group, which joined al-Qaeda earlier this year, still controls much of the country and mounts frequent attacks in the capital - despite being expelled from its bases there last August.
The Horn of Africa nation has been without an effective central government since 1991 and has been racked by fighting ever since - a situation that has allowed piracy and lawlessness to flourish.
At the moment, the UN-backed transitional Somali government, whose mandate expires in August, only controls the capital.
Pictured: AU troops say they are avoiding built-up areas as they advance towards Afgoye