Houthi rebels 'in control' of Yemen capital, Saleh forces say claims false

  • Houthi rebels 'in control' of Yemen capital, Saleh forces say claims false

Houthi rebels 'in control' of Yemen capital, Saleh forces say claims false

The former president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was killed on Monday in a reported RPG and gun attack while trying to flee fierce fighting between his loyalists and his former allies the Houthis in the 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.

Saleh had previously been aligned with the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels before switching sides to an Saudi-led coalition in the country's blood-soaked civil war.

Members of Saleh's General Peoples Congress later said he had been killed by sniper bullets.

The former president's gamble in quitting his alliance with the Huthis proved to be a fatal step.

Images circulating on social media showed Saleh's body cradled in a floral blanket, with what appeared to be a large head wound.

Witnesses said clashes had erupted around the residence of Tarek Saleh, a nephew of the former president and a leader with his forces.

A senior official with Yemen's internationally-recognized government confirmed to The Associated Press that Saleh had been killed, sending video purportedly showing Saleh's body being carried away by a group of armed men chanting, "Allahu akbar".

The head of the Houthis' Ansarullah group warned that the biggest victor from what he described as Saleh's "sedition" was the Saudi-led coalition.

But in recent months, the alliance frayed amid Houthi suspicions Saleh was leaning toward the Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi.

In this January 3, 2017 file photo, tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels chant slogans during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters into battlefronts to fight pro-government forces.

The breakdown of the alliance has led the coalition to step up its bombing of Houthi positions, in support of Saleh's forces.

The Houthis had branded him a traitor for allegedly striking a deal with Saudi Arabia. He remained in the country, however, and continued to wield power from behind the scenes.

In response, Houthi chief Abdul-Malek al-Houthi made a surprise speech this morning, calling on Saleh and tribal leaders to intervene to stop the internal bloodshed and reunite the internal ranks to face the "aggression", in reference to the Saudi-led military coalition. "Ambulances and medical teams can not access the injured and people can not go outside to buy food and other necessities", Stephane Dujarric, a United Nations spokesman in Yemen, said in a statement on Sunday.

In other areas like Fag Attan, Saleh's forces are still surrounded by Houthis.