DUBAI: Officials in Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC) confirmed to Reuters that the former Yemeni president and party leader has been killed outside Sanaa, in what sources in the Houthi group said was an RPG and gun attack.
The GPC officials said Saleh was killed south of the capital Sanaa along with the assistant secretary-general of the GPC, Yasser al-Awadi.
Sources in the Houthi group said fighters stopped his armoured vehicle with an RPG rocket and then shot him dead.
Unverified footage that circulated earlier on social media showed armed militiamen unfurling a blanket containing the corpse and shouting, “Praise God!” and “Hey Ali Affash!”, another last name for Saleh.
The radio station of the Houthi-run Yemeni Interior Ministry first reported Saleh’s death but his party quickly denied this to Reuters, saying he was still leading his forces in Sanaa.
Saleh’s loyalists have lost ground on the sixth day of heavy urban warfare with the Houthis during which the death toll has jumped to at least 125 with 238 wounded, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The realignment of Saleh’s forces with the Saudis would mark a significant turn in a war that is part of a wider struggle between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Yemen’s protracted bloodshed has compounded the woes of one of the Arab world’s poorest countries and left at least 10,000 dead as hunger and disease have spread.
At the United Nations, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the warring parties to stop all ground and air assaults. He also called for the resumption of all commercial imports into Yemen, saying millions of children, women and men were at risk of mass hunger, disease and death.
However, in a speech late on Sunday, Saleh formally annulled his alliance with the Houthis and pledged to step up his fight
Saleh, who dominated Yemen’s heavily armed tribal society for 33 years before quitting in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, and the Houthis had made common cause against Hadi loyalists.