In this Aug 24, 2017 file photo, Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh attends a rally marking the 35th anniversary celebrations for the formation of his General People’s Congress party, in Sanaa. (EPA-EFE photo)
SANAA, Yemen: Houthi rebels say former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for more than three decades and played a pivotal role in the country’s ongoing civil war, has been killed.
The Houthi-run Masirah TV announced the death of the “leader of the traitors” on Monday, referring to Mr Saleh, who until last week was in a fragile alliance with the rebels. It gave no further details.
A senior official with Yemen’s internationally recognised government confirmed to The Associated Press that Saleh had been killed. He sent a video purportedly showing Saleh’s body being carried away by a group of armed men chanting, “God is Great”.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to speak to the press. It was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was circulating widely.
Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades until he was forced to resign following an Arab Spring uprising in 2011. He remained in the country, however, and continued to wield power from behind the scenes. In 2014, his forces allied with the Houthis despite the fact that as president he had gone to war with them on more than one occasion.
The rebel alliance splintered last week, setting off heavy clashes between the Houthis and Saleh’s forces.
Yemenis in the war-torn country’s capital crowded into basements overnight as Saudi-led fighter jets pounded the positions of Houthi rebels, who are now fighting forces loyal to a former president for control of the city.
Suze van Meegen, Sanaa-based protection and advocacy adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said Monday that the violence left aid workers trapped inside their homes and was “completely paralysing humanitarian operations”.
Fighting erupted between the Iranian-allied Shiite rebels and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh last week, unravelling their fragile alliance, formed in the face of the internationally recognised government and Saudi-led coalition.
The breakdown of the alliance has led the coalition to step up its bombing of Houthi positions, in support of Saleh’s forces.