Suspected al-Qaeda supporters were among about 1,200 prisoners in Yemen who escaped during fighting the central city of Taiz, the country's third major jailbreak since Saudi Arabia began an air campaign against anti-government rebels in March.
The prison was attacked by al-Qaeda supporters, leading to the breakout, the BBC News reported
on Tuesday, citing the state news agency Saba.
Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters
headed from the Yemen capital of Sanaa to Taiz in March, followed by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition, according to Reuters
. The fighters and Yemen army members who support Houthi ally Ali Abdullah Saleh have withstood three months of air strikes since entering the city.
The Washington Post noted
that stories about the escape varied among news agencies and witnesses. Reuters quoted a security official who said Saleh-supported army forces orchestrated the prisoner escape as militiamen continued to tighten their grip on the city.
"Heavy fighting took place near the central prison and the popular committees approached and seized control of the area, but Saleh's forces opened the prison doors," the security official told Reuters.
Taiz freelance journalist Ahmed Albasha, though, told the Post that inmates dug a hole near a wall during chaotic fighting in the city on Tuesday, allowing some to escape. He added that Houthis then freed others once they were in control of the area surrounding the jail.
Houthi rebels forced the ouster of Yemen President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, throwing the country into its most critical crisis in years, said BBC News. Hadi was forced to escape to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia.
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow of Brookings Doha, an overseas center of the Brookings Institute, posted on Twitter in April that more than 300 prisoners escaped a Mukalla prison after an attack from al-Qaeda militants.
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