More than 60 Al Qaeda terrorists escaped from a jail in south Yemen on Tuesday after clashing with guards, killing one and wounding two others, security and medical officials told Gulf News.
The prisoners broke out of the central jail in Al Mukalla, capital of Hadramawt province on the Arabian Sea, and fled into nearby mountains, security officials admitted.
The prisoners rioted and overpowered the guards and seized their arms early Tuesday as bands of heavily armed terrorists raided Mukalla and attacked the prison to effect their comrades jail break.
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters those who escaped included militants convicted on terror charges or held in protective custody pending trial.
The escape is just the latest sign that unrest in Yemen has emboldened Al Qaeda and encouraged the terror organization to challenge authorities in the country's nearly lawless south.
Tribesmen Ask Saudis to Keep Saleh
Also on Tuesday, Sadiq Ahmar, the head of Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation, warned Saudi Arabia in a letter to King Abdullah that Yemen could plunge into civil war if President Ali Abdullah Saleh is allowed to return home.
Saleh is currently being treated in Saudi Arabia for serious injuries from a blast in his palace in Yemen's capital early this month that left him with severe burns and chunks of wood in his chest.
"His return will lead to sedition and civil war," Al Ahmar, a former Saleh article, said in his letter to the Saudi monarch. Later on Tuesday, Al Ahmar met with Yemeni Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to explore ways of resolving Yemen's political crisis.
Ahmar's request comes as the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council seeks a speedy resolution to the crisis in Yemen.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Mideast, have been protesting daily since January, demanding the resignation of Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for nearly 33 years.