Al-Qaida storms Yemen jail, frees 300
Rebel forces penetrated deep into the former southern stronghold of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi Thursday as al- Qaida freed hundreds of inmates in a jailbreak elsewhere in the chaos- hit country.
The push into the heart of Aden comes despite a week of Saudi- led air strikes aimed at preventing the fall of Hadi, who fled to Riyadh last week after losing control of most of the country.
Fighters and tanks of the Iran- backed Huthi rebels and allied army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh were trying to advance on the presidential palace, witnesses said.
“There are bodies and wounded in the streets and nobody dares to approach,” said Khaled al- Shaie, a resident in the central neighborhood of Crater.
The rebels seized the key district of Khor Maksar, home to several foreign consulates and U. N. offices after clashes with residents and local militia Wednesday that killed at least 19 people.
Two air strikes hit rebel positions overnight, while hundreds of paramilitaries arrived from the neighboring province of Abyan to support pro- Hadi fighters, an official said.
Hadi fled to Aden from the rebel- held capital in February.
But he went into hiding last week as the rebels advanced on his last remaining bastion and later resurfaced in the Saudi capital.
His aides have said he has no immediate plan to return to Aden.
In the coastal city of Mukalla farther east, al- Qaida militants stormed a Hadramawt provincial prison and freed more than 300 inmates, including one of their leaders, a security official said.
Khalid Batarfi had been held for more than four years, the official told AFP.
Two guards and five inmates were killed in clashes, the official said.
Batarfi is among al- Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s ( AQAP) t op regional commanders, known for his leading role in a 2011- 2012 battle with government troops during which extremists seized large parts of the south and east.
Yemen Rebels Storm Aden Presidential Palace: Official
Rebel forces Thursday stormed Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s palace in his former southern refuge Aden, a security official said, advancing despite a week of Saudi-led air raids.
“Dozens of Huthi militia and their allies arrived in armored troop carriers and entered Al-Maashiq presidential palace,” said the senior official, who saw them enter the complex.
Heavy clashes, including tank shelling, erupted afterwards between the rebels and their opponents inside the palace compound, a member of the pro-Hadi militia told AFP.
Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia last week as the rebels bore down on his last stronghold.
The rebel advance into the palace followed heavy fighting between opponents and supporters of Hadi on the streets of the southern city.
At least 44 people — including 18 civilians — were reported dead on Thursday alone. Hadi fled to Aden from the capital after Shiite rebels seized power in February.