Yemen Prison Escape: 1,200 Inmates Flee Amid Unrest

The latest Yemen prison escape involved an estimated 1,200 inmates. At this time, it is unclear who orchestrated the breach. However, local officials confirmed the escapees fled the prison amid “heavy fighting.”

According to reports, an unknown number of escaped inmates had suspected ties to al-Qaeda.

As reported by Al Jazeera, one security official blamed “groups of al-Qaeda supporters” who swarmed the prison and convinced Yemen soldiers to open the gates. The security official said the soldiers were loyal to Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Another official, who was also present at the scene, said the inmates simply left the prison “amid heavy clashes between warring militias in the city.”

According to reports, it was the third Yemen prison escape in the last four months. Authorities confirmed it was the largest in recent years.

The latest Yemeni crisis began in March, and is being referred to as a Civil War between those who support former President Abdu Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and those loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Amid the continued unrest, militant sects, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have carried out strikes throughout the region.

In March, several hundred Yemeni prisoners escaped Al Mansoorah Central Prison amid unrest and violence between Shiite Houthi rebels and supporters of former President Abdu Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

In April, al-Qaeda militants reportedly swarmed a prison in Al Makallah and freed an estimated 270 prisoners. As reported by CNN, an estimated one-third of the escapees have known ties to the terrorist organization.

Authorities were specifically concerned, as one of the escaped inmates was identified as senior al-Qaeda official Khaled Batarfi.

In addition to the prison, militant forces overtook several other government buildings, including the city’s Central Bank.

The Yemen prison escapes are a serious issue. However, as the crisis continues, the country is facing far worse problems.

As reported by the Council on Foreign Relations, Yemen had “a poverty rate of more than 50 percent” prior to the latest conflict. The continued unrest has forced Yemen “into humanitarian emergency.”

The World Health Organization estimates more than 1,000 people have died and 3,500 were injured in the last four months. As cities are continually being destroyed, an estimated 120,000 residents were displaced from their homes. An estimated 12 million residents “do not have consistent access to adequate food,” clean water, and fuel.

As shelters are overrun, and the violence is likely to continue, officials expect “mass outflows across Yemen’s land borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, and across the Gulf of Aden to Somalia and Djibouti.”

The long-term consequences of the latest Yemen prison escape are unknown. However, officials confirmed many of the inmates were suspected of having terrorist ties.

[Image via Brent Stirton / Reportage by Getty Images]