More on this story. It is not entirely clear whether the “daggers” the inmates attacked guards with were conventional or improvised weapons. But as this report details, there was much more going on than that, and therefore an even higher level of coordination, some means of communication with the outside, and clearly a channel for contraband.
And one would assume this was purportedly a maximum- or high-security prison. “Dozens of Islamist militants tunnel out of Yemeni prison,” by Mohammed al-Qadhi and Peter Finn for the Washington Post, June 22:
SANAA, Yemen “” More than 60 Islamist militants tunneled out of a prison in Yemen on Wednesday in a well-executed escape that highlighted the security risks in a nation that is increasingly unstable and home to al-Qaeda’s most potent regional affiliate.
The prison break, which occurred in the eastern port city of Mukalla, was coordinated with militants attacking from the outside to divert the guards “” a tactic that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, used last summer to free prisoners in the southern city of Aden.
Among the escapees Wednesday were members of an al-Qaeda cell that has killed foreign tourists and tried to attack the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and other Western targets, according to Yemeni officials. AQAP was behind the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound commercial flight on Christmas Day 2009 and the mailing of bombs on cargo planes destined for the United States.
The prison break could reinject committed fighters into the group’s ranks. Yemeni officials have not released a list of escapees, but one official told The Washington Post that 57 of the 62 men, many of whom fled into nearby mountains, had been convicted on terrorism charges and that some had been sentenced to death.
One is the loneliest number. 62 is a very worrying number:
“Even as we don’t know exactly who escaped yet, 62 is a very worrying number,” said Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen and a diplomat in residence at Princeton University”s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “The potential for destruction and disruption is high, although AQAP”s ability to be a political force, in whatever small area they control, is very limited.”
The prison in Mukalla, which is about 300 miles east of Aden, held up to 100 convicts who were associated with al-Qaeda or who had been imprisoned after returning from Iraq, where they had joined the insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition, according to Yemeni officials. They said two Syrians and two Saudis were among those who escaped.
The inmates dug the 50-yard tunnel themselves, said one jail official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give details of the escape.
They attacked a guard with daggers, snatched his gun and fired it as they were making their escape, the official said. One guard was fatally shot, and another was wounded. At the same time, militants attacked from the outside, and a gun battle raged for 30 minutes while the prisoners fled….