Yemen's strongman ex-president killed as battle rages in capital

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Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed on Monday by gunmen of Ansar Allah al-Houthi group after the bombing of his home in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Graphic video shared on social media showed the body of Saleh being carried in the back of a pick-up vehicle. It was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was circulating widely.

Two of Mr Saleh's associates and a third official from the government of Yemen's internationally recognised president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, have confirmed the death.

Saleh also called for a joint ceasefire between his allies and Houthi rebels, and the Saudi-led coalition, which has been at war with the impoverished country since March 2015.

The circumstances of Saleh's death were unclear but Houthi officials said their forces caught up with him as he tried to flee capital city Sanaa.

"He was martyred in the defence of the republic", said Faiqa al-Sayyid, a leader in the General People's Congress, blaming Huthi rebels for Saleh's killing south of the capital Sanaa.

The fighting in the capital of Sanaa caused residents to cower in their homes as explosions rocked the city overnight.

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.

However, the Houthis have repeatedly threatened to strike the UAE, Saudi Arabia's lead partner in its operation to oust the Iran-backed fighters from power.

The 75-year-old Saleh had previously ruled Yemen for more than three decades after the country's unification but was toppled in 2012 after popular and political pressure during the so-called Arab Spring.

The news that Saleh had been killed came just hours after Saudi Arabia chose to back Saleh, calling his fight against the Houthis a "popular uprising". Iran supports the Houthis but denies arming them.

Yemen's war has killed more than 10,000 people since 2015, displaced more than two million people, and caused a cholera outbreak infecting almost one million people.

"Ambulances and medical teams can't access injured, people can't buy food and other supplies", UNICEF's Rajat Madhok said on Twitter.

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