Al-Qaeda Frees 300 Prisoners in Yemen; Houthi Rebels Storm Presidential Palace as Saudi Arabia Escalates Attacks to Defend Yemeni Gov't

Houthi group
Followers of the Houthi group demonstrate against the Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen in Sanaa April 1, 2015. |

Terror group al-Qaeda has reportedly freed close to 300 prisoners in Yemen as it battles for control over territory. Houthi rebels have meanwhile stormed the presidential palace in Aden, despite airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition seeking to protect what it says is a legitimate government.

The Telegraph reported on Thursday that while the identity of those freed from Al Mukalla prison is not yet clear, several reports have said they include well-known jihadis.

Houthi rebels, supporting former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, took over the capital of Sanaa in 2014, and are looking to overthrow the rule of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who insists he's still in power.

Saudi Arabia has backed Hadi's government and has launched military operations against the rebels.

BBC News reported on Thursday that Houthi rebels managed to break into the presidential palace in Aden following heavy clashes, which involved tanks and armored vehicles.

While Hadi has already fled to Saudi Arabia to seek refuge, Aden was recognized as his last seat of power in the country.

Iran has also been accused by several Gulf States of supporting the Houthi rebels with financial and military support, though the government of President Hassan Rouhani has denied the claims.

BBC noted that there are several warring factions in Yemen — the Shia-led Houthis, who are seeking control of the entire country; forces loyal to President Hadi, who is backed by Saudi Arabia; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is opposed to both Hadi and the Houthis rebels; and the recently emerged Yemen offshoot of ISIS, which is seeking to eclipse al-Qaeda.

UNICEF said that the weakest members of society are paying the highest price in the ongoing war, and said that least 62 children have been killed and another 30 have been injured in fighting in the space of a week.

"Children are in desperate need of protection, and all parties to the conflict should do all in their power to keep children safe," said Julien Harneis, UNICEF Yemen Representative.

"The escalation in violence and the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation is exacerbating already precarious conditions for children in the country, with widespread food insecurity, severe acute malnutrition and increased rates of child recruitment," the report added.

UNICEF said that it's working to provide essentials such as water, sanitation and health supplies, as well as vaccinations, nutrition, education, psychosocial and mine awareness programs to affected children.

Followers of the Houthi group demonstrate against the Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, in Sanaa, Yemen, April 1, 2015. |

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