SANAA: Yemeni security forces were on Friday hunting down 29 inmates, including 19 suspected al-Qaeda members, who broke out of jail in a deadly assault in the capital.
The official Saba news agency cited an interior ministry statement as saying 29 people convicted “of various terrorist and criminal charges” escaped when a blast breached the facility’s outer wall on Thursday.
Security officials said the two-pronged assault began when an explosives-laden vehicle slammed into the eastern gate just after sunset.
Gunmen simultaneously attacked guards at the main entrance, creating a diversion that allowed some prisoners to escape through the hole.
“Nineteen of those who broke out are accused of committing terrorist acts,” a ministry spokesman told Saba, adding that security forces were trying to track down the fugitives.
He said the vehicle bomb blew a five-meter (16-foot) hole in the outer wall before the assailants opened up with grenades on several guard posts.
The 29 escaped during the ensuing exchange of fire, he said.
He said “a terrorist group” was behind the attack, referring to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), viewed by Washington as the extremist franchise’s deadliest branch.
Seven members of the security forces were killed and four wounded in the assault, the spokesman added.
Initial reports on Thursday put the number of escapees at 14, “mostly al-Qaeda inmates.” They also said three attackers were killed.
Officials say the prison holds around 5,000 inmates.