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More Than 20 Killed in Northern Somalia Fighting

Somali security officials patrol near southern Mogadishu's K4 intersection conducting operations to ensure security, May 9, 2011

Officials in Somalia's Puntland region say at least 26 people have died in fighting between government soldiers and Islamist insurgents.

Witnesses say Islamist fighters attacked Puntland troops in the Gal Gala area before dawn Wednesday.

The region's minister of security, Yusuf Ahmed Khayr, tells VOA Somali Service that five soldiers were killed and four others wounded.

Khayr says the troops then counter-attacked and killed 21 insurgents. Initial reports said the insurgents had seized control of Gal Gala, but Khayr says the government has re-secured the area.

Gal Gala is located about 40 kilometers southwest of Bosasso, the commercial capital of the semi-autonomous Puntland region.

The fighters behind Wednesday's attack are loyal to arms dealer Mohamed Atom, a member of the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab is trying to overthrow Somalia's transitional government and set up a state based on a strict interpretation of Sharia law.

The group controls much of southern and central Somalia but has lost some ground in recent weeks to a government offensive.