AQAP storms prison in Yemen's capital, frees al Qaeda operatives

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula freed several of its operatives from the central prison in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a in a complex assault today that involved suicide bombers and an assault team. Nineteen AQAP operatives were among the 29 prisoners who were freed during the attack.

The attack began as a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives outside the prison, Yemeni security officials told The Associated Press. AQAP fighters then dismounted from two other cars and broke off into two units. One AQAP unit clashed with security guards outside the prison; the unit was backed by fighters who deployed on nearby rooftops and opened fire on the Yemeni guards. Meanwhile the second unit of fighters fanned out into the prison and battled the guards inside.

At least seven Yemeni soldiers were killed and two more were wounded during the fighting, according to the Yemen News Agency.

"Some prisoners," including al Qaeda operatives, "were able to escape from the prison during the attack."

In the course of the assault 29 prisoners escaped, including 19 who "were convicted of terrorism-related charges," according to Mohammed Albasha, Yemen's spokesman in Washington. Albasha published information on his Twitter account.

Among those freed, according to Albasha, are A'hed Aamer and Yaha Haydarah, both of whom are "linked to killing and bombing plots in Abyan" and were "sentenced to seven years in prison"; Mansour Saleh Salem and Mubarak al Shabwani, both of whom "killed three security officials and soldiers, seized an army truck" and were "sentenced to death row"; and Abdulrahman al Sharabi, who "plotted to assassinate President Hadi" and "was sentenced to 10 years in prison."

AQAP has made good on a vow made by its emir, Nasir al Wuhaysi, who also serves as al Qaeda's general manager. In a statement released in August 2013, Wuhayshi praised jihadists currently held in prisons, and said the group would make an effort to free them.

"We ask Allah to make us a cause in unlocking your imprisonment and relieving your sorrows," Wuhaysi said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Other allied groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, have focused significant efforts on assaulting prisons. Both groups have freed hundreds of prisoners in major attacks over the past several years. [See LWJ reports, Pakistani Taliban assault prison, free hundreds of inmates, Pakistani Taliban assault prison, free nearly 400 inmates, and Al Qaeda assaults Iraqi jails, frees hundreds of prisoners.]

AQAP continues to target security installations

Today's complex assault by AQAP is the latest against major security installations over the past several months. On Jan. 16, AQAP fighters killed 10 soldiers during simultaneous attacks against three military outposts in the town of Rada'a in Baydah province. At least one military camp was overrun and three armored personnel carriers were taken during the attack.

Two months ago, AQAP launched a successful suicide assault in Sana'a. On Dec. 5, 2013, a large suicide team of AQAP fighters penetrated security at the Ministry of Defense in the capital of Sana'a. The suicide assault resulted in the deaths of 52 people, including foreign doctors and nurses, and 11 AQAP fighters. AQAP claimed that the assault targeted the US-run "operation rooms" for the drone program in Yemen.

Other recent high-profile suicide assaults include: the Sept. 20 , 2013 suicide assaults against three military bases in Shabwa province; a raid on military headquarters in Mukallah in Hadramout on Sept. 30, 2013 (the base was held by the AQAP fighters for days before the military retook control); the Oct. 18, 2013 suicide assault on a military training center in Abyan; and the Dec. 31, 2013 complex suicide assault against a Security Department headquarters in the port city of Aden.

The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using multiple suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic used by al Qaeda and its allies, including the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Boko Haram. Suicide assault are commonly executed in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

US intelligence officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a direct threat to the homeland. The terror group has planned multiple attacks against targets in the US. The US continues to launch drone strikes against AQAP; three such attacks have taken place in Yemen so far this year.


READER COMMENTS: "AQAP storms prison in Yemen's capital, frees al Qaeda operatives"

Posted by Andy at February 14, 2014 3:42 AM ET:

Very nice post

Posted by Joseph at February 14, 2014 12:30 PM ET:

Al Queda and it's many affiliates seemingly have an advantage in their respective theaters against their respective opponents(whether that be a central government, a military regime or a rebel group against a central government).

With that rise and empowerment, will each nation with an affiliate look like Syria in two or three years? How entrenched with territory, power(political, military, influence over locals), PR ability, recruits and weaponry will each affiliate grow to become? And what of the same further militarisation of the Shia militias in response?

That whole region could turn into a total war zone within the next few years. Perhaps ultimately culminating in a hot war between the two largest players in the region - The Saudis and Iranians.

Let's not forget it was only 100 years ago the Europeans brutalized each other. And they had to do it again twenty years after that. What is to say my children at age 30 will not be watching the missile exchanges between the Islamic Republic and the Saudi Kingdom itself?

Posted by Nolan at February 28, 2014 11:38 AM ET:

It also appears that Saleh al-Shawish, a militant who operated under Hamza al-Quaiti (one of the 23 February 2006 escapees), was also freed in this event two weeks ago.

Captured January 2010

Sentenced October 2010

Escaped February 2014