Key al-Qaeda Members Escaped in Yemen Prison Break

Five of Freed Were Awaiting Execution

When Sanaa Central Prison was attacked by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) yesterday, the Yemeni Interior Ministry downplayed the situation, saying only around 14 people had “fled in the chaos” and that the prison guards fought off the attackers in short order.

The reality is looking much worse. Not only were at least 29 now confirmed to have escaped in the attack, including many of the top AQAP prisoners held at the facility, in an apparently organized jailbreak.

Among those who escaped were three of the attackers in a failed assassination attempt on President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and give others who were awaiting execution.

Yemeni officials termed the escapes a “disaster,” and that they included a lot of “operational figures” within AQAP. The group has a long history of using prison breaks to bolster their forces, and AQAP’s current leader was broken out of the same prison in 2006.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of