Al-Qaida storms Ye­men jail, frees 300

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

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