Connect to share and comment

Yemen: "Al Qaeda jailbreak" in city of Aden

At least a dozen suspected al Qaeda militants escape through a tunnel from the central prison in Aden, southern Yemen, according to Yemeni officials.

Al qaeda jailbreak yemen 12 12 2011Enlarge
Yemeni defected soldiers stand guard during an anti-government rally in Sanaa on December 8, 2011 to protest against the former regime loyalists that have been appointed to the newly formed unity government. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

At least a dozen suspected al Qaeda militants have escaped from a prison in Aden, a city in southern Yemen.

It was initially reported that 12 militants and two other prisoners had escaped through a tunnel dug from the prison yard at the central Aden jail. Reuters later reported that at least 16 prisoners, including suspected members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, had escaped during the jailbreak.

Some of the accused al Qaeda militants were in the process of being tried for bank robbery, while others had been charged with assassinating security officers, the BBC reported.

CNN said security forces have closed down all roads leading to Aden, and set up checkpoints on every main street in the area.

More from GlobalPost: Yemen protests and crackdown continue despite deal

This would not be the first jailbreak by al Qaeda members in Yemen: in June, al Qaeda militants raided the central jail in the city of Mukalla, and freed dozens of prisoners, killing four guards during the raid.

In May, militants seized control of some parts of Abyan province, in southern Yemen, and declared it an Islamic emirate, CNN said.

Protests against the rule of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have continued for nearly a year. Saleh agreed to step down last month, making him the fourth leader to leave office as a result of the "Arab Spring" unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Clashes have continued since Saleh signed a deal, brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which allows him to step down from power in exchange for immunity.

Hundreds of people have died since January in violent crackdowns against anti-Saleh demonstrations in Yemen.

More from GlobalPost: Clashes continue in northern Yemen, death toll rises