Dozens of prisoners flee as Qaeda attacks Yemen prison

AFP , Wednesday 22 Jun 2011

Dozens of Al-Qaeda militants escaped from a jail in southern Yemen following an attack on the compound

Heavily-armed Al-Qaeda fighters Wednesday raided a jail in southern Yemen, freeing dozens of prisoners and killing a security force member and wounding two others, security officials and medics said.

Fighting with heavy machine guns broke out between guards of the central jail in Al-Mukalla, capital of the Hadramawt province, and the Al-Qaeda militants, a security official said.

The jail is believed to house more than 100 Al-Qaeda militants, 58 of whom have been tried in court and have received jail sentences, the official said.

Spokesman for the civil society organisations in Hadramawt, Nasser Bakazzuz, however accused authorities of assisting the Al-Qaeda prisoners to escape, denying there was an attack by the militants on the facility.

"The regime is living its last days and wants to create chaos in Hadramawt province ... there was no attack by Al-Qaeda on the jail to free prisoners," Bakazzuz said.

He said that more than 40 Al-Qaeda prisoners were seen fleeing into the mountains overlooking the jail.

Another security official told AFP that 62 prisoners escaped but two were rearrested.

A medic at Iben Seena hospital in the city said a security force member was killed and two others wounded, while an Al-Qaeda militant arrived at the hospital in critical condition.

Yemen army has been fighting heavy gunbattles with Al-Qaeda militants in several parts of the Arab nation that has also been witnessing a massive uprising against the 32-year-old rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Battles are also raging between Yemen's army and suspected Al-Qaeda militants for control of the southern city of Zinjibar.

At least 100 soldiers have been killed since the violence in Zinjibar erupted more than three weeks ago, and 260 have been wounded, according to a military official.

Alleged Al-Qaeda militants, who have named themselves Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Islamic Sharia law), have been controlling most of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, since late May.

Fighting between government forces and suspected Al-Qaeda fighters in southern Yemen have displaced 45,000 people, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday.

"OCHA is concerned about this conflict situation in southern Yemen in Abyan province," Elisabeth Byrs, an OCHA spokeswoman, told reporters here. "We are concerned about the resulting displacement of people."

She said humanitarian agencies estimate that roughly 10,000 people have been displaced in Lahj province, 15,000 in Aden province and more than 15,000 around Abyan.

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