The former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been killed by Houthi fighters, the country's Houthi-controlled interior ministry confirmed. However, Saleh’s party denies reports of his death.
The deposed leader was reportedly killed while on his way to the city of Maarib in Yemen, according to Iranian media.
The killing of Saleh was also reported by a radio station in Yemen, which belongs to the country's Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Houthis. The Iranian Tasnim agency shared an unverified image, allegedly depicting a dead Saleh with a wound to the head.
The reports emerged following earlier news suggesting Houthis had blown up Saleh’s home in the capital, Sanaa. Since then, the ex-leader’s whereabouts have been unknown.
Heavy fighting has been ongoing in Yemen's capital in recent days, with the Saudi-led coalition launching strikes on Houthi positions. On Monday, the Houthis made gains against forces supporting the former president. According to witness reports in local media, there was intense fighting overnight, with explosions rocking the city into Monday morning.
The intensified fighting, with the US-backed Saudis launching new attacks on Houthi forces, has “completely paralyzed humanitarian operations” in the Yemeni capital, AP reported Monday citing an adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Suze van Meegen. “No one is safe in Sanaa at the moment,” she said.
On Sunday, the former leader of the war-torn country formally renounced his alliance with the Houthis. Together these groups have been fighting against the Saudi-backed forces of ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi since 2015. Saleh now pledged to step up his fight with the Iranian-backed group, having re-aligned his forces with Saudi Arabia.
In an earlier televised speech, Saleh said that he made the decision to cease fighting in the country, having asked Riyadh to stop attacks on Yemen in exchange for his support. "I call upon the brothers in neighboring states and the alliance to stop their aggression, lift the siege, open the airports and allow food aid and the saving of the wounded and we will turn a new page by virtue of our neighborliness," he said.
The address came as forces loyal to Saleh were engaged in battle with the troops of Ansar Allah, or the Houthi rebels, in the capital Sanaa. Hostilities between the two sides broke out on Wednesday. More than 100 people, mostly Houthis, were killed in clashes between Houthis and forces loyal to ex-President Saleh on Saturday, Sky News Arabia reported, citing military and medical sources.