Five prisoners killed as attempted mass escape fails
A security source at the Interior Ministry told media outlets on Thursday that a committee has been formed to investigate the violence between guards and prisoners during the escape attempts.
The committee included Attorney General Ali Nasser Al-Awash, Interior Minister Abdul-Kadir Qahtan, and Human Rights Minister Huria Mashoor.
The committee started its investigation on Friday, with the aim of identifying the circumstances surrounding the violence and plan to issue a statement making clear the reasons and circumstances which led to its outbreak.
A police source told the Yemen Times that the escape attempt was calculated, that it was of a larger scale than previous attempts, and that the police response had foiled the attempt.
He further cited that the escape attempt was carried out following protests and chaos witnessed inside the prison, and emphasized that prison management entered negotiations with prisoners and reconsidered their demands and complaints.
“The prisoners were asked to select representatives to talk on their behalf before a newly-appointed prison manager.”
The source said the prisoners selected representatives to brief prison management on their demands and sufferings.
“However, one tough prisoner named Ali Al-Siadi was among those representatives and this person who was convicted of murder snatched a gun from a policeman,” said the source.
“With the support of other prisoners, they apprehended grenades and personal firearms from the policemen. They went to release other inmates and threatened to shoot the policemen if they met with any resistance.
The source added that policemen were able to curb the chaos after Al-Siadi, the mastermind of the escape attempt, was killed.
The prisoners fired on ambulances which attempted to carry causalities to the hospital, leading to some of the wounded prisoners being left to bleed to death. The bodies were seized by prisoners inside the prison, and it was nearly 18 hours before a tribal mediation could receive the corpses.
A security source in Dhamar who requested anonymity said that security services imposed a siege on the neighborhood surrounding the prison. Anti-riot policemen were reinforced by 13 military vehicles, present at the prison following the outbreak of protests over the past two months.
Initial probes have revealed that confrontations erupted while prisoners’ relatives were bringing them food. After the internal gate to the prison was opened, the prisoners seized the opportunity to procure AK-47s. However, police forces soon took control of the situation.
One prisoner told the Yemen Times via telephone that policemen used live ammunition and rubber bullets, as well as tear gas, batons and tasers against prisoners, and said that the police retreated when one prisoner threatened to throw a grenade on them.
“I saw one prisoner with two grenades and a pistol as clashes broke out with policemen, but the policemen used trucks loaded with heavy machine guns, which they randomly fired in the direction of the internal gate,” he added. “I saw the brains of one prisoner scattered around us and the head of another, separated from his body.”
The prisoner said that inmates seized three corpses and refused to release them until Thursday evening, when Ahmed Hatim, a tribal leader of the Anis tribe, mediated.
Another inmate alleged that prison management provided prisoners with grenades and pistols to raise chaos inside the prison, and stated that the prisoner suffer a great deal as management frequently cuts water and food provisions in addition to the electricity.
Security sources affirmed that a sub-committee was formed to tackle the situation, pointing out that it included officials from the Interior Ministry, Human Rights Ministry, Legal Affairs Ministry, Dhamar Court of Appeals and the Prison Authority.
The source confirmed that the committee arrived in Dhamar on Friday and held meetings with security officials before embarking on Saturday morning on an investigation of the events with concerned civil society organizations in attendance.
Local sources told the Yemen Times that a tribal leader went to the main gate of prison to demand that security services promptly surrender the policemen who caused the killing of a relative, but no further details could be found.
“What are the benefits of Yemen’s current revolution if it couldn’t manage to obtain the release of those prisoners held,” Mohammed Salah, an activist at Dhamar’s Change Square, said.
“They should share in the Yemeni people’s celebration of the departure of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh and they should be dealt with in the same way as Rada’a’s prisoners.”
Prisoners in Rada’a – a town that was taken over by Al-Qaeda last month – were released when Al-Qaeda militants stormed the city’s central prison.
Abdullah Al-Mashraqi, 4, said the prisoners were very glad when revolution broke out in Yemen, maintaining the hope that they would be released as happened in Egypt and other Arab which the Arab Spring swept through.
Policemen from Dhamar’s Central Prison foiled two escape attempts last December when four prisoners were wounded when policemen used live ammunition on prisoners.
The prisoner who had been convicted of planning to assassinate Assistant Deputy Governor of Dhamar, Abdul-Karim Daafan last December successfully escaped from the same prison last week.