Al-Qaeda Seizes Yemen Port, Frees Over 300 Prisoners

Target Far East of AQAP's Usual Area of Operation

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the faction’s Yemeni affiliate, usually sticks to the southwestern part of the country, where it enjoys considerable support among certain powerful tribes. Today, they branched out hundreds of miles east along the southern coast, sacking the city of Mukalla.

Mukalla, the capital of the large but sparsely populated Hadramawt Province, fell in pretty short order, with AQAP fighters focusing their efforts on the city’s major prison, from which they freed over 300 prisoners.

Key AQAP figures were among the prisoners freed, as well as at least 90 prisoners being held on death row, including many with no known contacts to AQAP before today.

Locals expressed shock at how quickly the city fell to AQAP militants in pickup trucks, and the leader of the invading militants spoke at one of the city’s major mosques, assuring them AQAP is only there to ensure the city does not fall to the Shi’ite Houthis, who recently took the key port of Aden.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of