Prison Assault in Yemen, 21 AQAP Operatives releasedFebruary 20, 2014 in Yemen
13 February: Twenty-nine prisoners escaped from prison following an assault on a central prison complex in Sana’a, Yemen. Of those who escaped, 21 were known members of terror network, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), including explosive experts convicts suspected in the assassination attempt on Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
According to an anonymous Yemeni security official, “The group detonated the car bomb at the western wall of the prison, creating an approximately five-meter (16-foot) hole in the wall. They shot and killed the guards in this area, including using RPGs.” Immediately following, two groups of fighters exited cars and broke off into two units; a third group of fighters was stationed on nearby rooftops. As one unit fought with security guards outside the prison; the rooftop opened fire on the guards. The second unit then battled guards inside the prison. Seven soldiers were killed and four were injured. It is unknown whether members of the assault teams were injured.
Yemen has mobilized its security apparatus in efforts to recapture the prisoners. State media has published images of the criminals and called on citizens to contact officials if they see anything.
The assault is the latest in a series of security installation attacks occurring over several months. In mid-January, 10 soldiers were killed in coordinated attacks on three military outposts in the town of Rada’a in Baydah province. In December, a suicide team of AQAP fighters penetrated security at the Ministry of Defence in Sana’a, attempting to target US-led Ops Rooms for the drone program in Yemen. The assault killed 52 people. High-profile assaults were also conducted in September and October of 2013.
While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, the nature of the break is consistent with AQAP. The strategy of combining suicide bombers and assault teams has been used by the group in the past. It is a common tactic among al-Qaeda linked allies, including portions of the Taliban and Boko-Haram. Further, AQAP emir and general manager, Nasir al Wuhaysi, released a statement in August 2013, in which he praises militants currently in prison, and vows that efforts will be made to release them.