ADEN (Reuters) - Yemeni authorities have detained the director of a prison for questioning over the escape of 63 al Qaeda inmates earlier this week, state television said Saturday.
It said the deputy director of the al-Munawara prison in the southern city of al-Mukalla also was detained for questioning. It gave no further details.
The United States and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia are worried that Yemen, rocked by months of popular protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year-old rule, could slide into violence that would be exploited by the local al Qaeda wing to launch attacks in the region and beyond.
The prisoners escaped Wednesday after they dug a 35-m (yard) long tunnel. They attacked prison guards, killing one and wounding two, before they escaped, the state news agency Saba said.
It said security forces pursued the prisoners, killing three and recapturing two.
Yemen state television said Saturday that the body of a fourth inmate had been found. It said he had been sentenced to death.
All the prisoners were Yemeni and most had been jailed after returning from Iraq where they fought alongside militant, he said.
The current head of al Qaeda’s wing in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, was among 23 prisoners who escaped from a Yemeni jail in 2006.
Yemen is battling hundreds of Islamist militants associated with al Qaeda who have seized control of the southern city of Zinjibar and other adjacent towns.
Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Michael Roddy