SANAA/DUBAI (Reuters) – Veteran former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a roadside attack on Monday after switching sides in Yemen’s civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of a Saudi-led coalition, foes and supporters said.
Analysts said Saleh’s death would be a huge moral boost for the Houthis and a serious blow to the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in the conflict to try to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Any hope within the coalition that Saleh could have been bought off to help turn the tables against the Houthis after a protracted stalemate, in which a Saudi-led blockade and internal fighting have exposed millions to hunger and an epidemic, has been dashed.
The coalition will either have to continue waging a grinding war, possibly trying big offensives against Houthi-held areas at the risk of high civilian casualties, or offer compromises to bring the Houthis to the negotiating table.
Footage circulated on social media showing his bloodied body lolling in a red blanket and being loaded into a pickup truck, just days after he tore up his alliance with the Houthis following nearly three years in which they had jointly battled the Saudi-led coalition.
In a televised speech on Monday, Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi hailed Saleh’s death as a victory against the Saudi-led bloc, congratulating 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 Houthis, who follow the Zaidi branch of Shi‘ite Islam, would maintain Yemen’s republican system and not pursue a vendetta against Saleh’s party.
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Source Credit: Reuters