Dozens of militants, many of them suspected al Qaeda members, have escaped a Yemeni prison in what appeared to be a brazen, coordinated jailbreak today, according to reports.
One soldier was killed and at least one other wounded when militants outside the prison attacked it, presumably to create a distraction that provided 57 militants enough cover to escape through a tunnel, according to security officials cited in a report by The Associated Press. Altogether, 62 inmates made off in the confusion.
Reuters reported all of the prisoners were Yemeni and most had been jailed after returning from fighting in Iraq for the insurgents.
Yemen, already in the midst of a violent national upheaval, is home to one of al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliates, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose leaders include U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Last week ABC News obtained information that showed the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had repeatedly urged senior al Qaeda operatives in Yemen to carry out terror attacks in the United States.
"Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is strictly, or has been strictly focused on attacks in the US homeland," Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers told ABC News in an exclusive interview then. "This morning, when you're over your breakfast cereal there is somebody in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula planning another attack in the U.S."
In April, more than 500 Taliban fighters made a similar escape from an Afghan jail, slipping through two underground tunnels. According to the version of events for that escape posted on the Taliban's official website, the main tunnel took five months to build and passed under a highway and police checkpoints.
A U.S. military official conceded then that the prison break was a "disaster," but noted that the prison is entirely run by Afghans, and that only low-level fighters were housed there. He said that significant or high-value prisoners are routinely moved to U.S. control.