In a coordinated attack orchestrated by the Yemeni affiliate of the Al-Qaeda, as many as 200 prisoners were freed from a central prison located in the southern port city of Al Mukalla early Thursday. According to the New York Times, the assault on the prison was part of a larger assault by the militants directed against several government buildings located in Al-Mukalla. Several residents from the area have confirmed that they saw inmates from the prison escaping following the Al-Qaeda assault.
According to CNN, the attack in the central prison in Al-Mukalla is the first large-scale operation carried out by the Yemeni Al-Qaeda after the beginning of a military offensive against the militants by Saudi Arabia. The report adds that apart from the central prison, several official buildings and offices, including the security headquarters and the Yemeni presidential palace, were attacked by Al-Qaeda fighters just after midnight.
Following the attack, there were scenes of anarchy in the streets as looters stormed the prison to take away whatever they could find. This is the first major attack on the oil-rich city of Al-Mukalla, which has until now been spared from the chaos that had been spreading across Yemen. The country has been witnessing increased unrest over the course of the past weeks, with forces loyal to the now exiled president of Yemen, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, getting involved in clashes with fighters from the Houthi tribe. The latter now controls the capital of the country.
Following the unrest, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United States began a military offensive against the Houthis, the aim of which was to restore order by reinstating the exiled President Hadi back to power. However, even after the military strikes, the Houthis advance into the country has not been stopped, and several people have started questioning the efficiency of the airstrikes and the military campaign in general.
It is in the midst of this chaos that the Al Qaeda is also trying to make its presence felt in the country. In fact, according to new reports, the aim of the attack on the central prison in Al Mukalla was to free several jailed Al Qaeda leaders and to strengthen their position in the country.
This latest attack by Al Qaeda came just days after another such attack on a town in Yemen’s Lahj Province forced the United States administration to withdraw its last military advisers to Yemen who were all stationed near the place where the attack took place. However, the U.S. maintains that they are still providing intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi Arabian military, which is playing the lead role in the offensive against the Houthis and the Al Qaeda in Yemen.
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