A side of the central jail in Mukalla city
Suspected Al-Qaeda fighters stormed a central prison, freeing at up to 300 prisoners, local police and officials said. Khaled Batarfi, a prominent Al-Qaeda figure was among the prisoners freed. The prison break occurred several days after Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes in Yemen.
Witnesses said AQAP fighters armed with machine guns stormed the prison after a barrage of rocket fire from men positioned on the roofs of tall buildings surrounding the prison facility.
Two prison guards and five inmates were killed in clashes during the prison break, according to the official.
Al-Qaeda gunmen also clashed on Thursday with troops guarding the local administration complex in the provincial capital Mukalla, a branch of the central bank and the police headquarters, the official said.
Yemen has descended further into chaos since a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes a week ago against positions held by Houthi rebels and their allies across the country.
Observers have warned that Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, classified by the United States as the network’s deadliest franchise, could exploit the unrest to strengthen its presence in the country.