Twelve alleged Al-Qaeda militants plus two other inmates have tunnelled their way to freedom from a prison in the south Yemen city of Aden, a security official said on Monday.
The prisoners fled through a six-metre (yard) tunnel they dug at the western end of Aden’s central prison, the official said.
None of the escapees was serving a jail sentence. Some were being tried over a 2009 robbery of a bank in Aden, while others were facing charges of being involved in various assassinations of intelligence officers, security sources said.
In June, heavily-armed Al-Qaeda fighters raided the central jail in the southern city Al-Mukalla, capital of the Hadramawt province, freeing dozens of prisoners and killing a security guard.
The Mukalla jail was believed to house more than 100 Al-Qaeda militants, 58 of whom have been tried in court and have received jail sentences.
Spokesman for civil society organisations in Hadramawt, Nasser Bakazzuz, at the time accused the authorities of assisting the prisoners to escape and denied there was an attack by the militants on the facility.
Yemen’s army has been fighting heavy gunbattles with Al-Qaeda militants in several parts of the Arab nation that has been witnessing a massive uprising against the 32-year-old rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
After months of defying calls to stand down, Saleh last month finally agreed to immediately hand his powers to his deputy and quit in 90 days.
Meanwhile, battles have been raging for months between Yemen’s army and suspected Al-Qaeda militants for control of the southern city of Zinjibar.
Suspected Al-Qaeda militants, who have named themselves Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Islamic Sharia law), have been controlling most of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, since late May.
Fighting between government forces and suspected Al-Qaeda fighters in southern Yemen have displaced 45,000 people, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in June.