Al-Qaeda frees 300 inmates in Yemen jailbreak

A Yemeni military policeman stands guard as suspected Yemeni militants stand behind bars during a court session at a state security court in Sanaa, Yemen. (File photo: Associated Press)

Al-Qaeda militants stormed a prison in southeastern Yemen on Thursday, freeing several hundred inmates including one of their leaders, a security official said.

Khalid Batarfi, a senior Al-Qaeda figure who had been held for more than four years, was among more than 300 prisoners who escaped from the jail in Hadramawt province, the official told AFP.

Also in Yemen, rebels battled their way into the heart of Aden where fighting raged Thursday in the former stronghold of President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled overseas.

The advance comes despite a week of Saudi-led air strikes aimed at preventing the fall of Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh.

The Iran-backed Huthi rebels and allied army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh were advancing on the presidential palace after seizing the key district of Khor Maksar, home to several foreign consulates and U.N. offices, residents said.

At least 19 people were killed on Wednesday in clashes pitting the rebels against armed residents and local militia, officials said.

Hadi fled to the southern city from the rebel-held capital in February.

But he went into hiding last week as the rebels advanced on his last remaining bastion and later resurfaced in the Saudi capital.

His aides have said he has no immediate plan to return to Aden.