Al Qaeda Members Escape Prison in Yemen
Several members of Al Qaeda escaped from prison in Yemen. Western press reports that about 50 prisoners escaped, and that there were two fatalities - one prisoner, and one security officer. The prison break was compared to one in Afghanistan, where approximately 30 low-level followers of Al Qaeda had escaped. While the Afghani prison break was described as "disastrous", this current one was not.
For a while now it has been assumed that the U.S. has few options in Yemen. Military intervention is practically out of the question - the public would not leap to support yet another entanglement in the region. Given that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains with the Saudis, and they have virtually guaranteed that he will not return to Yemen ever. Since Saudi Arabia has taken up dealing with Yemen's embattled leader in this way, it is understandable that the U.S. would stay out of the way and leave this country's issues to the Saudis.
As for this latest prison break, press in the region is not assuming that this was purely organized by Al Qaeda. Al-Jazeera English reports that this recent break is significantly bigger than the previous one in Yemen in 2006, where 23 prisoners escaped. They also mention the contention of Yemeni protesters that this may be a ploy to discredit the uprising against Saleh.
Yemen Times report is more critical of the Saleh government officials, and goes a step further to imply a high level of incompetency or worse, collusion with Al Qaeda. While not stated outright, the report comes just short of suggesting that this prison break was more like a hand-over of prisoners with slight collateral damage. Whether or not the escaped prisoners end up causing difficulties for Yemen, or anyone else remains to be seen. Going forward, the practice of imprisoning accused terrorists in their country of origin may need to be reevaluated, at least in countries currently in upheaval, like Yemen.