Al-Qaida Freed Hundreds Of Inmates From Yemeni Prison

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Erica Wenig Contributor
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Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula militants stormed a central security prison and freed at least 270 prisoners in southern Yemen early Thursday morning.

This appears to be AQAPs first major offensive since Saudi Arabia launched its offensive against an Iran-backed, Shiite rebel group last week, according to The New York Times.

Writes Yemen expert and BuzzFeed correspondent, Gregory Johnsen:

The prison break in al-Mukalla freed Khalid Ba Tarfi, an AQAP regional commander who was captured in 2011, and hundreds of others. In recent years, Yemen’s prisons have become de facto jihadi academies as more hardened veterans have been dumped into communal cells with younger more impressionable prisoners.

Houthi rebels overran the capital city Sanaa, ousting President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi earlier this year. The Saudi-led, Sunni Arab campaign is intended to restore Hadi to power and halt the expansion of Iranian influence in the Gulf.

The spiraling security situation in Yemen has crippled the U.S. fight against AQAP since airstrikes are dependent on human intelligence on the ground. (RELATED: Yemen Crisis ‘Cripples’ US Counterterrorism Efforts Against Al-Qaida)

Adding to the instability, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for bombings in two mosques that killed more than 130 people in Sanaa in mid-March. The attacks were meant to ignite sectarian tensions, inspiring Sunnis to join Islamic State ranks.

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