Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted by the Arab Revolution/Arab Spring 2011, was assassinated near the capital, Sanaa, on Monday.
Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for his death. They said they killed him for “treason”.
His killing was confirmed to Al Jazeera by Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress (GPC).
Houthi sources said Saleh was killed by the rebels in a rocket-propelled grenade and shooting attack on his car at a checkpoint outside Sanaa.
There were earlier reports that the Houthi rebels blew up one of Saleh’s houses, after storming the property, Aljazeera reported.
In a statement read out on a Houthi TV network, the interior ministry announced the “killing” of “Saleh and his supporters”.
Saleh was killed two days after he publicly broke off ties with the Houthi group, amid intense street battles between the rival factions that led to the killing of dozens of people.
In a televised statement on Saturday, he expressed his openness to talks with the Saudi-led coalition in what the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels labelled “a coup” against their fragile alliance.
Saleh, 75, ruled the Arabian Peninsula country for more than three decades.
After he was ousted he joined the Houthis and played a pivotal role in the country’s ongoing conflict.
The Houthi rebels, who are believed to be backed by Iran, stormed Sanaa in September 2014.
They seized control of the city and eventually forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Saleh in 2012, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened to reinstate Hadi’s government.
Three months later, following Saudi-led coalition air raids on his home in Sanaa, Saleh officially announced for the first time the establishment of his alliance with the Houthi leadership.
Houthis are named as such because they follow a tribal leader in the north called Abdul Malik al-Houthi.
His family started to criticise the Yemeni government in the 1990s for its alignment with Saudi Arabia and the United States, demanding a more equitable share of development and political voice in the country.
The founder of the modern-day Houthi rebellion, Badr-eddin Houthi, was killed by Saleh’s forces in 2004. Saleh was Yemen’s president at the time.
The Houthis participated with other Yemenis in the Arab Spring of 2011, demanding the removal of Saleh. The Gulf Cooperation Council brokered an end to the popular uprising, retaining Saleh as president. He was finally removed in 2012.
In 2014, the Houthis aligned with Saleh and overtook the capital, Sanaa.
They have demanded a greater role in the government and a say in a new constitution. They opposed a plan to divide the country into six federal regions.
Saleh’s party has confirmed reports that he was killed in a roadside ambush on Monday outside the capital, Sanaa, after switching sides in the civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favour of the Saudi-led coalition.
In a lengthy televised speech aired on the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV network, Abdul Malik al-Houthi said his fighters killed Saleh for his “treason” and congratulated Yemenis “on this historic, exceptional and great day in which the conspiracy of betrayal and treason failed, this black day for the forces of the aggression”.
He said the uprising of Saleh’s loyalists against the Houthi group was the greatest threat the Arabian Peninsula country had faced, but that it was defeated in three days.
He said the Houthi group – officially called Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) – would maintain the country’s republican system and would not seek vengeance against Saleh’s party.
The war in Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN, killing at least 10,000 people and leading to widespread hunger and disease.
The UN called for an urgent humanitarian pause for Tuesday in Sanaa, saying it has become a battleground with people trapped in their homes.
Source: Al Jazeera