AL MUKALLA, Yemen - More than 60 al Qaeda prisoners escaped from a southern Yemeni jail Wednesday after they clashed with guards, killing one and wounding two others, security and medical officials said.
The prisoners fled the central jail in al Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, into the nearby mountains after they overpowered the guards and seized some of their weapons, a security official said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, initially said that the prisoners fled after heavily-armed al Qaeda fighters raided the prison to free them.
The jail is believed to house more than 100 al Qaeda militants, 58 of whom were tried in court and received jail sentences, the official said.
However, spokesman for the civil society organizations in Hadramawt, Nasser Bakazzuz, accused authorities of assisting the al Qaeda prisoners' escapes.
"The regime is living its last days and wants to create chaos in Hadramawt province ... there was no attack by al Qaeda on the jail to free prisoners," Bakazzuz said.
Another security official said that of the 62 prisoners who escaped, two were re-arrested.
A medic at Iben Seena hospital in the city said that a security force member was killed and two others wounded, while an al Qaeda militant arrived at the hospital in critical condition.
Yemen's army has been fighting heavy gun battles with al Qaeda militants in several parts of the Arab nation, which has also been witnessing a massive uprising against the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Battles are also raging between the army and suspected al Qaeda militants for control of the southern city of Zinjibar.
At least 100 soldiers have been killed since the violence in Zinjibar erupted more than three weeks ago, and 260 have been wounded, according to a military official.