Yemen’s civil war has taken a dramatic turn after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels killed the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, punishing him for switching sides and seeking peace with Saudi Arabia.
Pictures of Saleh’s corpse appeared on Houthi-run television after the militia said it had killed him as he fled the capital, Sana’a.
He had ruled Yemen for more than 30 years and was forced to resign in 2011 as part of the Arab spring political revolution.
Houthi military officials said Saleh was killed as he was travelling with other top party leaders from Sana’a to his hometown of Sanhan.
Houthi fighters followed him in 20 armoured vehicles, then attacked and killed him and almost all those with him. Gruesome video
footage of his blood-spattered body were distributed on social media.
Earlier his house was destroyed in fighting that has erupted in Sana’a between Houthi militia and forces loyal to Saleh. Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded Houthi positions close to the city airport, and the ministry of the interior.
The Saudi bombing was part of a desperate and ultimately doomed attempt to prevent the
Houthis taking complete control of the capital. Salah’s death may prompt a furious reaction from Saudi Arabia, which is determined to push back Iranian influence in the country.
The violence between the Houthis and Saleh’s forces has led so far to the deaths of at least 125 civilians in clashes in the last last five days, according to the International Red Cross. The fresh violence comes after the sudden collapse of the political and military alliance between the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Saleh. The two groups had held Sana’a for the past three years in an uneasy alliance.
The International Red Cross also warned it was struggling to keep the hospital functioning in Sana’a and access its warehouse of medical supplies.
The distribution of humanitarian aid across the country is fraught, with 7 million people dependent on aid in what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. The civil war has so far claimed 10,000 lives.