updated 3/1/2006 11:18:05 AM ET 2006-03-01T16:18:05

Yemeni authorities thwarted escape attempts by al-Qaida suspects in two different prisons, security officials said Wednesday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the escape attempts were stopped over the past two days and took place in cities outside the capital, San‘a.

They said 10 al-Qaida suspects were planning to escape from the first prison and another two, senior al-Qaida suspects, tried to escape from the second.

They did not identify the prisoners or provide further details, except to say that an investigation was launched into the attempts.

Earlier escape
Last month, 23 al-Qaida convicts, who were all kept in the same cell, tunneled out of a high-security jail.

The fugitives include a man convicted of the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the destroyer USS Cole in which 17 American sailors were killed in the Yemeni port of Aden. Another was convicted for the 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced late last month that three of the escaped prisoners had surrendered.

Security officials said investigations into last month’s escape revealed that of about 150 people detained for questioning, three were involved in facilitating the escape and receiving bribes.

Western diplomats said a brother of one of the prisoners who fled worked in the Political Security Department, or Yemeni intelligence, and was linked to the escape, but Yemeni officials refused to confirm the report.

Prisons holding al-Qaida suspects are controlled by Yemeni intelligence.

The officials said that following the Feb. 3 escape, jurisdiction and high-security prison powers were expected to be transferred to the National Security Department, a unit formed two years ago to oversee Yemen’s security. The department is run by the director of president’s office, Ali al-Anisi.

The 23 al-Qaida prisoners broke out through 180-yard tunnel that came up inside a mosque. Authorities have also offered a reward of $27,800 for information leading to the arrest of any of the fugitives.

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