Prisoners Flee Yemen Jail after Qaida Attack


More than 60 al-Qaida prisoners escaped from a south Yemen jail on Wednesday after they clashed with guards, killing one and wounding two others, security and medical officials told Agence France Presse.

The prisoners fled the central jail in al-Mukalla, capital of the Hadramawt province, into the nearby mountains after they overpowered the guards and seized some of their arms, a security official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had initially said that the prisoners fled after heavily-armed al-Qaida fighters raided the prison to free them.

The jail is believed to house more than 100 al-Qaida 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-Qaida prisoners to escape.

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

Another security official told AFP that of the 62 prisoners who escaped, 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-Qaida militant arrived at the hospital in critical condition.

Yemen's army has been fighting heavy gun battles with al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida fighters in southern Yemen have displaced 45,000 people, the U.N. 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.