By Nimra Noor, International News Writer
On Monday, December 4, former Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a shooting attack by Houthi rebels near the capital city, Sanaa. The Houthi-controlled Interior Ministry announced Saleh’s death in a statement, “The militias of treason are finished and their leader has been killed.” His killing was later confirmed by Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress (GPC).
There were earlier reports that the Houthi rebels blew up one of Saleh’s houses, after attacking the property. Abdel-Rahman al-Ahnomi, a top Houthi media official, told the Associated Press that Saleh was killed near Marib, the eastern province bordering Saudi Arabia. “He was trying to flee to Saudi,” he said. Later, GPC officials stated that a convoy that he and other party officials were in came under fire from Houthi fighters as they fled south towards the former leader’s hometown of Sanhan. Yasser al-Awadi, the GPC’s assistant secretary-general, was also killed, according to A Jazeera.
Pictures and video circulating on social media purportedly showed a Houthi crowd picking up Saleh’s dead body, wrapped in a colorful blanket, and lifting it onto a pickup truck. Saleh’s eyes appeared wide open, the back of his head badly injured, and his shirt blood stained under a dark suit. The footage further showed the Houthi men shouting “Praise be to God!” and “Hey Ali Affash!” – the name of Mr. Saleh’s clan.
A dominant figure in Yemen, 75-year-old Saleh, ruled the Arabian Peninsula country for more than thirty years before being forced to resign in 2011, as part of the Arab spring political revolution. However, he continued to play a vital role in the country’s ongoing conflict: a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, the region’s Sunni powerhouse, and Shi’ite Iran.
The Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, had stormed the country’s capital in September 2014, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Saleh in 2012, to escape to Saudi Arabia. Six months later, the US backed Saudi-led coalition intervened to restore Hadi’s government, leading to Saudi air raids on Sanaa. It was this crucial time in Yemen that Saleh officially announced his alliance with the Houthi leadership, seizing control of the city, and eventually forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
However, in an abrupt televised address on Saturday, December 2, he expressed his openness to talks with the Saudi-led coalition. Calling for “the turning of a new page,” he announced that he was changing sides in the civil war, and would be pursuing a dialogue with the Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led coalition that he had been fighting, alongside the Iran-backed Houthis, since the past two and a half years. Accused by Houthis of a “coup against an alliance he never believed in,” Saleh’s unanticipated shift of allegiance followed days of fierce clashes between his forces and Houthis in Sanaa, killing 230 people, as estimate by the International Committee for the Red Cross, and ultimately ended with his assassination.
With Saleh killed and his allied forces apparently disintegrating against Houthi hostility, the future of Yemen’s conflict appears to be grim. As the slain ex-president’s son vowed to lead a campaign against the Houthi movement to avenge the death of his father, the complexity of the multi-sided war deepens, signaling that Yemen is not close to an end in fighting.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 12th print edition.
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