Suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants have attacked government buildings in Yemen’s southeastern province of Hadhramaut, seizing the chance amid Saudi military aggresion against the impoverished Arab country to step up their terrorist activities.
Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the sound of a heavy explosion and intermittent clashes could be heard after militants attacked the presidential palace in the port city of al-Mukalla, located some 800 kilometers (497 miles) southeast of the capital, Sana’a, late on Wednesday.
Flames could also be seen rising into the night sky, Arabic-language hadrmoutpress.com news website reported.
The sources added that the assailants used a car bomb to break into the palace premises, and then engaged in a fierce exchange of fire with the guards inside.
The al-Qaeda suspects also attacked the provincial government office in Mukalla, and fired bullets, mortar rounds as well as rocket-propelled grenades during skirmishes, which lasted for over half an hour.
Qaeda inmates freed in prison attack
Additionally, gunmen launched an assault on Mukalla’s central prison. Over 300 inmates, among them al-Qaeda elements, were freed from the detention facility afterwards. Khalid Batarfi, a senior al-Qaeda figure who had been held for more than four years, was among the prisoners who escaped from the jail
Over the past months, al-Qaeda militants have frequently carried out attacks across Yemen. The militants have also been engaged in battles with the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement.
Saudi Arabia’s air campaign in Yemen started on March 26 in a bid to restore power to fugitive former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.
Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
On March 25, the embattled president fled Aden, where he had sought to set up a rival power base, to Riyadh after Ansarullah revolutionaries advanced on Aden.
The Ansarullah fighters took control of Sana’a in September 2014 and are currently moving southward. The revolutionaries said the Hadi government was incapable of properly running the affairs of the country and containing the growing wave of corruption and terror.
The Saudi air raids on Yemen have so far claimed the lives of nearly 200 people, including 62 children.