More than 1,000 prisoners, including al-Qaida suspects, escaped from a jail during clashes between the Shiite Houthi group and pro-government fighters in Yemen's southern province of Taiz on Tuesday night, local officials and witnesses said.
The clashes erupted after pro-government fighters advanced to areas controlled by Houthi militia around the central prison, which hosts up to 1,200 prisoners, including dozens of al-Qaida inmates, the officials said.
The fighting forced the Houthis to retreat from the area and the prison too, the officials added.
Witnesses said they saw the prisoners escaping in groups from the jail's gates during the clashes and before Houthi militia withdrew from the area. They said heavy weapons were used as pro-government fighters managed to control the site as well as the prison.
Houthi-controlled state-run Saba news agency blamed the jail break on the pro-government fighters, accusing them of breaking into the jail and facilitating the prisoners' escape, but the accusation was denied.
The prison break occurred just hours after pro-government fighters controlled Hadaik Alsaleh area in southern Taiz, the third largest city in Yemen, according to the residents.
Meanwhile, Saudi-led air strikes on Tuesday continued to bomb Houthi-controlled military targets across the country, as ground battles intensified.