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Reports from Puntland indicate that Puntland forces fighting against the al-Shabaab linked insurgent group led by Sheikh Said Atom in the mountainous settlement of Galgala has started pulling back unexpectedly from the frontlines.
Sheikh Atom's militia seized the area after his fighters suddenly launched a surprise attack on Puntland forces bases in Galgala on May 11th.
“Puntland forces who fought in Galgala were seen returning to Bosaso. No reason for the withdraw was given,“ said a local journalist in Bosaso who spoke to Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity.
A Puntland official told Somalia Report that Puntland forces were forced to retreat from Galgala because they are fighting other battles.
“We could not reinforce or send additional troops to Galgala because we have a lot of resources on other fronts,“ he said.
Both sides claim the other side suffered heavy casualties and official numbers of dead or injured are conflicting.
Sheikh Atom said that they killed at least 20 Puntland soldiers in contrast with Yusuf Kheyr, a Puntland military official, who said that his troops killed 21 Islamic insurgents.
Independent sources indicate that Puntland lost at least 10 of its soldiers during the latest confrontations with Sheikh Atom's forces.
Puntland media did not comment on the developments as journalists fear retaliation from Puntand Internal Security Forces. Last year the director of the Horseed Media, an independent radio, was sentenced to six years in prison after conducting an interview with Sheikh Said Atom. Although he was released later with an official pardon by Puntland President Abdirahman Farole, journalists remain fearful to report on Atom.
The two sides fought in Galgala, 35km south of Bosaso, last year and it is believed that Sheikh Atom and his group have been hiding in the remote rural areas since then.