Al-Qaeda prisoners escape from jail in Al-Mukalla By: Shatha Al-Harazi
June 22 – At least 65 prisoner’s escaped on Tuesday from Al-Mukalla Central Prison. Some of the escaped prisoners have been confirmed as Al-Qaeda members who had been transferred from another prison in Al-Mukalla to the central prison.
Civilians claim that heavy gunfire broke out around 8am between security forces and escapees. The situation in the city has now returned to normal, with only one armored vehicle guarding the entrance of Jol Al-Saifa’a where the central prison is located.
The General-Secretary of Mukala’s Local Council, Mohammad Bin Ziad, who has been following the incident, told the Yemen Times that the confirmed number of escapees is 65 so far. However, he also said more details will be released after investigations have been carried out and eyewitnesses questioned.
“There was an external attack on the prison,” said Bin Ziad. “People broke into the prison from outside and slaughtered the guards. There are eyewitnesses and fatalities on both sides.”
According to Bin Ziad, one of the attackers was shot dead in the gunfight, but due to security reasons no names as yet can be released.
The Yemen Times contacted the head of Al-Mukalla’s security on the phone who angrily responded, “For information call the minister [of the interior],” before hanging up.
Al-Qaeda vowed earlier to escalate its operations to prove that the death of its founder, Osama Bin Laden who was recently killed in Pakistan, does not effect its operations. AQAP has recently launched a number of successful attacks in Abyan governorate, taking advantage of a power vacuum that has existed since security forces have been removed to deal with the popular uprisings sweeping the country.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has also vowed to escalate its activity against the state. Both the state and the opposition parties have promised to fight Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) in order to gain the trust of the US, according to Rashad Abi Al-Feda, an AQAP spokesman.
Amed Al-Zurqa, a political analyst, said that the escape might have been planned by the regime to “mix the papers,” and make Al-Qaeda more active. This would be to gain international attention and raise concerns about what would happen the current regime was overthrown.
“Most of those who escaped are from Hadramout and Shabwa, so they know the area very well. But the large number of them [who escaped] makes us suspect that it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for neglect by the prison responsible,” said Al-Zurqa.
Al-Zurqa said that this will likely lead to increasing chaos in the city, and more violence, especially the assassination of state officials and security members.
The last major breakout by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen took place in 2006 from a detention facility in Sana’a. At that time, 23 inmates escaped including several key Al-Qaeda operatives. One of those who escaped was Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, a former secretary to Osama bin Laden, who terrorist experts say had trained in Afghanistan.