Fifteen inmates, including 12 al-Qaeda militants, escape Yemen prison

Twelve alleged al-Qaeda militants are said to have fled through the tunnel they dug at the western end of Aden’s central prison in Yemen. (File photo)

Fifteen inmates, including 12 alleged al-Qaeda militants, have tunneled their way to freedom from a prison in the south Yemen city of Aden, an Al Arabiya correspondent said on Monday.

The prisoners fled through the tunnel they dug at the western end of Aden’s central prison.

Yemen has been wrecked by months of political turmoil and unrest.

The prisoners fled through a six-meter tunnel they dug at the western end of Aden's central prison, Al Arabiya correspondent 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, according to AFP.

In June, nearly 60 suspected al-Qaeda militants tunneled their way out of a prison in the southern Mukalla city, capital of the Hadramawt province.

Spokesman for civil society organizations 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 gun battles 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 U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in June.

Yemen police disperse separatist protest

Meanwhile, a Yemeni protester was wounded Monday when police dispersed hundreds of demonstrators demanding a secession of southern regions in the capital of former South Yemen, activists said.

Security forces at dawn stormed a camp of tents that southern separatists erected in al-Oroud Square in Aden after they met U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar, activists said.

“Police opened fire at us. One police vehicle hit a protester and injured him,” while security forces tore off the flags of former South Yemen and destroyed the tents, said an activist who requested anonymity.

Nasser al-Nuba, a leading figure in the Southern Movement umbrella group, told AFP that a delegation of the movement met Benomar and demanded the “right of the people of south Yemen to self-determination.”

Benomar played a pivotal role in bringing President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a Gulf-brokered deal last month by which he immediately handed power to his deputy and should quit completely after 90 days.

The exit plan aimed to end months of deadly protests that demanded an end to Saleh’s 33 year in power.

Residents in the formerly independent southern region complain of discrimination by the Sana’a government in the distribution of resources since the union between north and south in 1990.

The south broke away again in 1994, sparking a brief civil war that ended with the region overrun by northern troops.

In the capital Sana’a, hundreds of thousands of protesters and across the country demanded that Saleh face trial for his regimes attacks on critics of the government, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.

A new Yemeni government was sworn in, pledging to end violence and restore basic services to the country. The protesters also rejected the unity government, which includes former members of Saleh’s administration, according to the AP.

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