A Chinese soldier helps non-Chinese citizens board a Chinese vessel in Aden on April 2. Image Credit: Reuters

Aden: Al-Qaida militants controlled large parts of a provincial capital in southeastern Yemen on Friday, a day after freeing 300 inmates in a jailbreak in the chaos-wracked country, residents said.

Several hundred armed militants flying the black banner of the extremist network were seen patrolling and setting up roadblocks in central and western areas of Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province.

"Fighters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) control districts in Mukalla but not the whole city," a local official told AFP.

Key state facilities in the east of the city, including army camps, the airport and the port, "are still under the control of government forces," he added.

Senior Al-Qaida figure Khalid Batarfi was among more than 300 prisoners who escaped from a jail in Mukalla on Thursday that was stormed by militants, according to security officials. Al-Qaida gunmen also attacked the local administration complex, a branch of the central bank and the police headquarters, the officials said.

Observers have warned that AQAP, which Washington considers the network's deadliest franchise, could exploit the unrest to expand its foothold in Yemen.

Before the latest chaos erupted, Yemen had been a key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, allowing Washington to carry out drone attacks on its territory.

'Al Houthi fighters pull back in central Aden'

Meanwhile, Houthi fighters and their allies have pulled back from the central Aden district of Crater after overnight clashes with gunmen loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, residents and local officials said on Friday.

Residents said the Houthis had withdrawn to the Khor Maksar neighbourhood after one of their tanks was destroyed and another taken over by Hadi loyalists.

Aden is the last stronghold of fighters loyal to Hadi, who fled the city eight days ago. Houthis have continued to make gains despite more than a week of Saudi-led air strikes against them, though they have faced occasional reverses.

Saudi-led coalition airdrops arms to Aden forces - fighters

Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition waging a military campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen dropped arms supplies by parachute on Friday to fighters defending central Aden from the Houthis, the local fighters said.

The light weapons, telecommunications equipment and rocket-propelled grenades were dropped over Tawahi, a district on the far end of Aden peninsula which is still held by fighters loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, they said.

The pro-Hadi newspaper Aden al-Ghad published pictures of at least one wooden crate atttached to a parachute, which the newspaper said had landed in Aden. Local men were seen loading the crates onto pickup trucks.

Aden is the last major stronghold of fighters loyal to Hadi, who fled the city eight days ago and has been watching from neighbouring Saudi Arabia as his remaining power crumbles in the face of the Houthi gains.

China evacuates foreigners from Yemen

China evacuated 225 people from 10 different countries from war-ravaged Yemen, Beijing said Friday, an unprecedented move underscoring the country's growing global reach.

The Chinese missile frigate Linyi brought them to Djibouti after two weeks of fighting between rebel forces and a Saudi-led coalition that has seen hundreds killed.

The evacuees included 176 people from Pakistan, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, with the remainder from Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen.

She said it was "a humanitarian relief action" taken at the request of "relevant countries".

"It is also the first time the Chinese government has taken special action to help with the evacuation of foreign citizens in dangerous areas," she told reporters at a regular briefing.

"It fully demonstrates the spirit of internationalism and humanitarianism of the Chinese side."

The official Xinhua news agency said this week that China rescued six foreign nationals from Yemen along with hundreds of its citizens who were being brought out, but Hua's remarks indicate that the latest operation was Beijing's first dedicated to foreigners.

The People's Liberation Army Navy had previously evacuated more than 500 Chinese from the country. China has become more involved in humanitarian relief as its global influence has grown.

Beijing has taken a role in the fight against Ebola, sending hundreds of medical workers to West Africa, where it also built a treatment centre.

It also sent a hospital ship - the 300-bed Peace Ark - to typhoon-ravaged Philippines in November 2013, although only after being widely criticised for the scale of its initial financial response.

In 2011, more than 35,000 Chinese were evacuated from Libya during the unrest that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Last year Beijing moved more than 730 citizens out of the same country in light of the worsening security situation.

Turkey wants political solution, supports Saudi-led operation

In Vilnius, Lithuania, Turkey said it wants a political solution to the crisis in Yemen but has offered support to a Saudi-led coalition that has carried out air strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.

Turkey's support for the Saudi-led operation - in words if not action - puts it at odds with Iran. President Tayyip Erdogan last week accused Tehran of seeking to "dominate" the Middle East and called on it to stop supporting the Houthis.

"Turkey announced that we can give logistics support and intelligence support (to the Saudi-led operation), but we are for political solutions," Cavusoglu told a news conference during a visit to Lithuania. Turkey, which has the second-largest army in the NATO military alliance, has not taken an active role in the Saudi-led operations. Cavusoglu said no demands had been made of Ankara beyond political support.

But he criticised the Houthi militia, who with their allies seized a central district of the southern city of Aden on Thursday, the last major holdout of fighters loyal to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

"What the Houthis are doing in Yemen is unacceptable. It's destabilising the country," Cavusoglu said. Iran supports the Houthi campaign against Hadi but denies giving them military aid or sending in its own troops. Iran summoned Turkey's envoy to complain about Erdogan's comments, although the Turkish president is still expected to visit Tehran next week.

Aircraft, ships to bring 1,900 Indians from Yemen

Thiruvananthapuram: A total of 1,900 Indians will be evacuated from Yemen in three aircraft and two ships, with one flight landing in Kochi at night, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said on Friday. "The information that we have is two IAF aircraft and an Air India aircraft will be evacuating Indians. Two of these aircraft will land in Mumbai," he said here in a statement.

Chandy wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday that while Pakistan, Russia and China had evacuated all their nationals from Yemen, it was a matter of concern that India had been unable to do so.