Yemen’s ex-president Saleh killed after he shifts alliance

Sanna: Sources from Yemen’s General People’s Congress confirmed the death of their leader and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in fierce clashes with Houthi militias in capital Sanna on Monday.

Saleh’s death is a big blow to hopes of an end to the country’s prolonged conflict.

A video aired on a pro-Houthi television channel showed the body of Saleh with eyes open, shirt soaked in blood and a gaping hole in the head kept on a red blanket with Houthi militias celebrating his death.

The death came two days after Saleh snapped ties with former Houthi militia allies to “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s current president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The coalition welcomed the shift but Houthis accused Saleh of staging a “coup” against “an alliance he never believed in”.

There are conflicting reports of how Saleh was killed. One report said Saleh’s house was blown up by Houthi fighters. But it was not clear whether Saleh was inside the building at the time.

Another report said Saleh died when Houthi fighters opened fire on Saleh’s convoy at a checkpoint on the way from Sanaa to his hometown of Sanhan.

Coalition forces kept pounding Sanaa overnight as clashes on the ground between the rivals escalated. Many civilians were trapped inside their homes.

People said the last 24 hours saw one of deadliest clashes since the war began.

Clashes between the two sides began from Wednesday when Houthi insurgents stormed a Sana’a mosque controlled by pro-Saleh forces. Both sides have traded blame over the violence which left more than 125 people dead and 238 wounded.

Saleh became the president of North Yemen in 1978 and the new republic of united Yemen in 1990.

The Houthis, who fight for the cause of Zaidi Shia minority in Yemen, had been a thorn in the flesh for Saleh since 2004. They backed a rebellion in 2011 which forced him to hand over power to his deputy, Hadi.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and three years later, Saleh’s supporters formed an alliance with Houthis to oust Hadi in 2015 after his government failed on many fronts.

Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia which later led a military campaign of coalition of forces to restore Hadi’s government.

The protracted war in Yemen has left more than 8,670 people killed and 49,960 wounded.

Yemen is facing a mass famine that will affect millions of lives unless the Saudi-led coalition ends its blockade and allows aid deliveries into the country.