The former president of Yemen was reportedly killed by a rebel faction that recently turned on him as he fled the nation’s embattled capital.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president until 2012, was once allied with the Houthi rebel faction, an Iran-tied group that championed his death as a “great and significant occasion,” the BBC reports.
The General People’s Congress, Saleh’s political party, also confirmed his death Monday.
Saleh was fleeing the war-torn capital, Sanaa, when his vehicle was attacked just south of the city, CNN reported.
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The Houthi also killed a handful of people traveling with the 75-year-old former strongman.
That came after a 48-hour siege on his Sanaa home by the Houthis, who overran the house despite efforts by Saudi Arabia to push them back.
His body was given to leaders of the General People’s Congress — Saleh’s political party which later confirmed his death.
Saleh’s death is seen as a crushing step back in restoring peace to the nation.
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After he was ousted during the Arab Spring movement, Saleh returned to prominence over the last three years as a major player in Yemen’s long-running civil war.
His allies fought alongside the Houthi against forces loyal to exiled incumbent President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi.
But the Houthis’ connections to Iran prompted persistent air strikes by neighboring Saudi Arabia, muddying an already messy situation in Yemen.
Saleh announced Saturday he planned to “turn the page” on the war to make peace with the Saudis, CNN reported, prompting a new struggle with the Houthis.
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His decision came after a fight to control the largest mosque in Sanaa killed more than 125 people, the BBC reported.
Saleh offered to halt fighting if Saudi Arabia stopped the blockade marring Yemen and ceased its strikes.
The Houthis then accused Saleh of arranging a “coup” against their agreement with him.
Hadi — Yemen’s exiled President seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia — on Monday asked for Yemenis to band together against the Houthis.
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“Yemen is passing through a decisive turning point that needs our unity and steadfastness in the face of these sectarian militias,” he said of the rebel group. “Let’s put our hands together to end this nightmare.”
At least 10,000 people have been killed in the civil war, which is viewed as a proxy struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
With News Wire Services
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TERENCE CULLEN, CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN