About 1,200 prisoners, including al-Qaeda suspects, have escaped during clashes in a jail in central Yemen, officials have said.
A security official told Yemen’s Saba news agency that units in Yemen’s army loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president, allowed the prisoners to escape when “groups of al-Qaeda supporters” attacked the central prison in Taiz city.
“Heavy fighting took place near the central prison and the popular committees [militiamen] approached and seized control of the area, but Saleh’s forces opened the prison doors,” the official said.
“More than 1,200 of the dangerous prisoners escaped.”
Another local official told the Reuters news agency that some of the escapees were “suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda” but said they left amid heavy clashes between warring militias in the city.
Hakim Al Masmari, editor of the Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera from the capital Sanaa that the incident is the third major jailbreak since March this year.
Another group of al-Qaeda suspects escaped from a prison in the eastern city of Mukalla in April after army forces suddenly quit the city.
Saleh and forces loyal to him are suspected of helping Yemen’s Houthi fighters who are battling the supporters of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Houthi fighters entered Taiz in March, in a southward push from their base in the capital Sanaa that eventually drew military intervention from a coalition of Arab states
Al-Qaeda and Houthis are fighting each other in several areas in central Yemen.
Meanwhile, an attack on Houthi rebel leaders in Sanaa claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) killed at least 28 people, medical sources said on Tuesday.
The car bomb, late on Monday, targeted two brothers, both rebel chiefs, during a gathering to mourn the death of a relative, a security source said. Eight women were among the dead.
ISIL said online it had organised the attack on a “Shia nest”.
The Sunni group considers Shia heretics and has repeatedly targeted them, not only in Yemen but across the region.