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Ali Abdullah Saleh, former President of Yemen - obituary

06 December, 2017, 01:05 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Huthi rebel fighters walk in the Yemeni capital Sanaa

But even without Saleh's loyalists, the rebels remain a powerful force and it is unclear how much the break with Saleh weakens them.

The Houthi claim come as tensions soar between the insurgents and the Saudi-led coalition, which imposed a crippling blockade on Yemen in response to a Houthi missile that was intercepted near Riyadh airport on 4 November.

The fighting that led to Saleh's death also apparently allowed the Houthis gain control of the majority of Yemen's capital Sanaa.

Without mentioning Saleh by name, he said that he knew about the ex-President's communication with the Saudis and his efforts to turn against the Houthis.

The news that Saleh had been killed came just hours after Saudi Arabia made a decision to back Saleh, calling his fight against the Houthis a "popular uprising".

Earlier in the day, Sanaa residents had told The National that the Houthis were besieging Saleh's palace, as well as residences belonging to his relatives and prominent supporters.

He was forced from power in late 2011 after mass protests inspired by the Arab Spring, and handed power to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, his vice president.

Saleh loyalists and Houthi rebels drove President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally-recognised government out of the capital in 2014.

A Houthi media official said Houthi fighters killed Mr Saleh as he tried to flee to Saudi Arabia through the province of Marib, to the east of the capital.

The United Nations said fighting and air strikes had intensified in Sanaa with roads blocked and tanks deployed on many streets, trapping civilians and halting delivery of vital aid including fuel to supply clean water.

Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi, meanwhile, hailed the death of his former ally, congratulating Yemenis "on this historic, exceptional and great day in which the conspiracy of betrayal and treason failed". He remained in the country, however, and continued to wield political power from behind the scenes.

Saleh's statement was dubbed "deception" by the Houthis, who were in alliance with the former President.

But they vied for supremacy over the territory they ran together, including Sanaa, which the Houthis seized in September 2014, and their feud burst into open combat on Wednesday.

Unverified footage circulated showing his bloodied body, just days after he tore up his alliance with the Houthis following almost three years in which they had jointly battled the Saudi-led coalition.

He said they had targeted several media outlets affiliated with the former president, including the television channel for which he works, Yemen Today, which was owned by Saleh.

Saleh's son has reportedly been injured and captured by the Houthis, while Yasir Awadi, the deputy chair of Saleh's party dubbed General People's Congress, was killed like the former president.

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