'Flagrant violation'

Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders said: "Mire's jail sentence and the arbitrary detention of his seven colleagues for several hours ... constitute flagrant and deliberate press freedom violations by the Puntland authorities."

Last month, Sheikh Atom vowed to wage a holy war against Puntland's leaders until his strict interpretation of sharia law prevails. The United Nations says Sheikh Atom is one of the principal suppliers of arms and ammunition for Somalia's al-Shabaab group in Puntland.

Somalia is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. Last year nine were killed and some foreign reporters have been kidnapped by rebels and held for ransom.

A major pirate base, Puntland has been relatively stable compared with the rest of Somalia/ But violence and instability have spiked in the region in recent months.