Early Thursday, fighters from al Qaeda freed around 300 prisoners in Yemen as Iranian-supported Shiite rebels continue their takeover of the Middle East country, the Associated Press reports. Officials said many of those who escaped the prison in al-Mukalla have ties to extremist groups.
CNN reports that senior al Qaeda figure Khaled Batarfi was among the prisoners who were freed. Batarfi is known as a top regional commander for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the most active arm of the terrorist organization that operates primarily out Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The escaped militant helped fight Yemeni government forces in several years ago, according to Al Jazeera.
Yemen has been plunged into chaos since the Houthi rebels, who are backed by the Iranian government, ousted Sunni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. Hadi fled the country last Wednesday. The country has become the grounds for a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, along with its allies, launched air strikes to push back against the rebels and Iran. The allied forces may soon deploy ground troops as the Houthis continue their massive takeover of the country. Though the U.S. military is not directly involved in the assault, the government was consulted before the air strikes took place, a National Security Council spokeswoman said last week.