Yemeni security officials said that nearly 1,200 inmates fled a prison in a southwestern city Tuesday after guards deserted their posts amid fierce fighting between Shiite rebels and their opponents.
Officials said the jailbreak in Taiz came as its main prison was caught in crossfire between the rebel Houthis, who are loyal to an ousted president, and local militias.
It was the third major jailbreak since a Saudi-led air campaign against the Iran-backed rebels began on March 26. Officials said those who escaped Tuesday included al-Qaida members and dangerous criminals.
The Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters entered Taiz in March, in a southward push from their base in the capital, Sana'a, that has drawn a military intervention from a Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
The rebels control much of the country's north, and three months of coalition airstrikes have yet to push back the group and units in Yemen's army that are loyal to the Houthi-backed former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Coalition airstrikes, meanwhile, targeted convoys carrying militiamen sent to reinforce the Houthis and allied forces in the eastern province of Marib, where the rebels are battling Sunni tribesmen, officials said.
They said Saudi-led warplanes also bombed the northern cities of Saada, Jouf and Amran, along with weapons depots and armored vehicles in a rebel-controlled police camp in the central Bayda province.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The airstrikes and ground fighting have killed more than 1,000 people and displaced more than 1 million amid severe shortages of water, food, fuel and medical supplies.
Some information for this report came from AP.