As many as three hundred Al-Qaeda militants seized control of the southern Yemeni town of Zinjibar late Saturday after a fierce battle with security forces, an eyewitness told Arab News by telephone.
Witness Fadhel Mubarek said law and order broke down in the city after government troops fled for their lives. Armed gangs looted banks and all government facilities.
Hundreds of families are leaving the city despite militant assurances that they mean no harm to the civilian population and their aim is to establish an Islamic state, Mubarek said.
After withdrawing from the city, Yemeni troops shelled it with tanks and heavy guns. The militants responded by firing rocket-propelled grenades.