Yemen’s then President Ali Abdullah Saleh points during an interview with selected media in Sanaa. (REUTERS File Photo)
SANAA/DUBAI, DECEMVER 5 (Reuters): Veteran former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a roadside attack on Monday after switching sides in Yemen’s civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favour of a Saudi-led coalition, foes and supporters said.
Analysts said Saleh’s death would be a huge moral boost for the Houthis and a serious blow to the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in the conflict to try to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Any hope within the coalition that Saleh could have been bought off to help turn the tables against the Houthis after a protracted stalemate, in which a Saudi-led blockade and internal fighting have exposed millions to hunger and an epidemic, has been dashed.
The coalition will either have to continue waging a grinding war, possibly trying big offensives against Houthi-held areas at the risk of high civilian casualties, or offer compromises to bring the Houthis to the negotiating table.
Sources in the Houthi militia said its fighters had stopped Saleh’s armoured vehicle with an RPG rocket south of the embattled capital Sanaa and then shot him dead. Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party, in a statement on its website, mourned its leader.
Footage circulated on social media showing his bloodied body lolling in a red blanket and being loaded into a pickup truck, just days after he tore up his alliance with the Houthis following nearly three years in which they had jointly battled the Saudi-led coalition.
In a televised speech on Monday, Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi hailed Saleh’s death as a victory against the Saudi-led bloc, congratulating Yemenis “on this historic, exceptional and great day in which the conspiracy of betrayal and treason failed, this black day for the forces of the aggression”.
He said the Houthis, who follow the Zaidi branch of Shi’ite Islam, would maintain Yemen’s republican system and not pursue a vendetta against Saleh’s party.
Saleh’s son vows to ‘confront enemies of the homeland’
Meanwhile, the son of Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed on Monday, vowed to “confront enemies of the homeland”, according to a written statement received on Tuesday.Ahmed Ali, a former commander of Yemen’s elite Republican Guards, said in the statement sent by an aide to Reuters that his father had died at his house, while carrying his weapon.
Referring to the Iran-aligend Houthi group which killed his father, Ahmed Ali said he would “confront the enemies of the homeland and humanity, who are trying to obliterate its identity and its gains and to humiliate Yemen and Yemenis”
U.N. says fighting stops in Sanaa, Saleh funeral expected
GENEVA, December 5 (Reuters): Yemen’s capital Sanaa was quiet on Tuesday after five days of fighting that culminated in the death of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and U.N. and Red Cross flights have landed at the airport, the United Nations said on Tuesday.Street battles in the capital had stopped despite 25 air strikes overnight, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said. The funeral of Saleh was expected later on Tuesday. He was killed by his erstwhile Houthi allies on Monday, two days after announcing he was switching sides in the war to oppose them.
Toll rises to 234 killed, 400 wounded – ICRC
The toll in fighting in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in nearly a week has risen to 234 killed and 400 wounded, including 383 severely injured, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday. Robert Mardini, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, also said in a tweet: “Our @ICRC_ye teams are now doing all they can to supply hospitals with medicines, surgical materials and fuel.”