Al Qaeda fighters swept into the southern Yemeni town of Rada overnight and overran it within hours, local and tribal officials were quoted as saying by AFP on Monday. The takeover of Rada, 130 kilometres southwest of Sanaa, was the latest in a series of southern towns and cities to fall in the hands of Al Qaeda.
Rada lies only 30 kilometres from the main highway connecting the capital Sanaa and Yemen's southern and southwestern regions. An official said the gunmen had also seized the town's central prison and police headquarters.
According to a local tribal chief, more than 100 prisoners were released, "including members of Al Qaeda." Two soldiers guarding the prison were shot dead, local officials said.
The takeover was completed without any significant resistance from local security forces stationed in the area.
The takeover of Rada was accompanied the formal appointment of a local "emir" to govern the newly seized territory. Tareq Al Dahab, who is married to slain US-born cleric Anwar Al Awlaqi's sister, was named to the post, tribal officials said.