Middle East

Yemen conflict: 'More than 1,000' prisoners escape

File photo: An Armed Yemeni tribal gunman from the Popular Resistance Committees loyal to Yemen's President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi monitors a street in the southern city of Taiz during ongoing clashes with Shia Houthi rebels, 24 May 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tribal gunmen and militia groups have been involved in fierce clashes with Shia Houthi rebels

About 1,200 prisoners, including al-Qaeda suspects, have escaped from a prison in central Yemen, officials say.

There were clashes at the prison in the central town of Taiz ahead of the break-out.

Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years, as competing forces fight for control.

The country was thrown into turmoil after Houthi rebels forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia.

It is not clear how the prisoners escaped.

State news agency Saba quoted a security official as saying that the prison had come under attack from al-Qaeda supporters.

However, another official told the Reuters news agency that the inmates had fled amid heavy clashes between warring militias.

The Associated Press said the prison guards had deserted their posts following clashes between Houthi rebels and their opponents, citing a security source.

It is the third major jailbreak in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition began an air campaign against the rebels on 26 March.

Human Rights Watch said in a report on Tuesday that the coalition had carried out dozens of air strikes on civilians in the Houthi's northern stronghold of Saada since April in apparent violation of the laws of war.

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