Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for more than 3 decades before being forced to resign, has been shot dead near the capital Sana’a after he appeared to split with the Houthi militia.
Saleh, who was 75, was killed on Monday when fighters with the Houthi militia attacked his car with a rocket-propelled grenade near the capital Sana’a. He was then shot dead with at least one bullet to the head, according to local officials and a video of his body.
The former president’s death comes just days after he indicated that he and his supporters were ending their support for Houthi fighters, a move which was welcomed by the Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting the Houthi militia and is seeking to return Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power.
Yasser al-Awadi, the assistant secretary-general of Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC), was also killed in Monday’s attack, according to the Reuters news agency. Houthi fighters have further blown up the house of Saleh, according to local residents.
The capital Sana’a has been rocked by a wave of fighting between Houthis and Saleh loyalists. The Red Cross said on Monday that at least 125 people have been killed and 238 others have been injured as a result of fighting in the capital since Wednesday night.
“The night was tough in Sanaa, Yemen. Massive urban clashes with heavy artillery and airstrikes,” said Robert Mardini of the International Committee of the Red Cross. “Yemenis stuck in their homes, too scared to go out. Reduced access to water, health care, food and fuel.”
The conflict in Yemen has had a devastating impact on civilians. An estimated 7 million people across the war-torn country are now facing famine and 14.5 million people have no access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. An estimated 130 children die every day of hunger and disease.
Saleh led Yemen for decades but faced an uprising in early 2011 as people took to the streets to demand greater democracy and freedom. Hundreds of people were killed in a resulting crackdown and Saleh warned of civil war as some military commanders and several ambassadors joined the uprising.
In November 2011, Saleh agreed to hand over presidential powers to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, but retained the title of president until February 2012 as part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). He also received immunity from prosecution, which angered some protesters.
In an attempt to restore peace and democracy, Hadi took office with a national unity government in which the ruling party and opposition parties evenly divided the 34 ministries. Violence erupted in January 2015 when Houthi fighters seized key locations in the capital Sana’a, leading to the sudden resignation of Hadi and his entire government.
Hadi fled to the port city of Aden several weeks later and rescinded his resignation, claiming that he had been forced to step down by the Houthi militia. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia in March 2015 as Houthi forces moved towards Aden, after which Saudi Arabia put together a military coalition with 9 other countries to restore Hadi’s government.
The Houthi fighters, with the support of Saleh loyalists, currently control most of northern Yemen.
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