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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Location of former Yemeni president's body still unknown, loyalists say

Conflicting reports have drawn questions around the whereabouts of the former president's body

This photo taken on January 24, 2010 shows the reflection of Yemenis in a mirror next to a picture of Yemeni ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa. Marwan Naamani / AFP
This photo taken on January 24, 2010 shows the reflection of Yemenis in a mirror next to a picture of Yemeni ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa. Marwan Naamani / AFP

The former Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who spent more than half his life governing in an act he likened to “dancing on the heads of snakes”, would have turned 71 on Wednesday. But on his birthday, three months after his brutal death, the whereabouts of the deposed leader's body are still unknown.

A great deal of conflicting news has been reported on the fate of Saleh's corpse since his murder on December 4, 2017 at the hands of the Houthi rebels with whom he joined in an uneasy alliance to resist the internationally-recognised government.

The Iranian-backed Houthis announced two days after his killing that Saleh’s body was buried in his birthplace, a tiny village of Beit Al Ahmer, in a funeral precession allegedly attended by Maydan and Salah, Saleh’s two sons still under Houthi arrest.

However, earlier in March, loyalists began demanding Saleh’s body be handed over, sparking rumours fuelled by a trending Twitter hashtag that the Houthis never buried the former president.

"For me, as I used to be too close to Saleh, I confirm that his body is still with the Houthis," Faeka Al Sayed, the minister of social affairs, told The National.

Mr Al Sayed is one of the very few Saleh loyalists who were able to visit the president’s two sons while in Houthi custody.

“They told me that the news, which claimed they participated in the funeral of their father, is a lie," Mr Al Sayed said. "Saleh's sons, Salah and Madyan, told me that they know nothing about their father's body.”

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A source close to Saleh told The National at the time that the Houthis claimed to have buried the former leader, but that the funeral procession of Yemen’s longest-standing ruler was attended by not more than 20 people.

“The fate of Saleh's body is not recognised yet, neither his family nor the leaders of his party GPC (General People's Congress) know anything about his corpse," Fares Saeed, the editor-in chief of the GPC-owned Khabar news agency, said in Sanaa.

Furthermore, Saleh's loyalists have been carrying out a big social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook requesting the Houthi militia hand Saleh's body over to his family.

"Hey mercenaries! Where is Saleh's corpse? We swear to hold a huge funeral for him, a funeral that the whole world will see and hear about, but just after hanging his murderers," Abdulkareem Al Meddi, one of Saleh's loyalists, tweeted on Tuesday.

After his death in December, a picture purportedly showing a note handwritten by Saleh a day before he was killed was making the rounds on social media.

“If you find this paper, know that our nation is valuable, and we will never not treasure it. My wishes are that my children and people do not surrender to these criminal militias and do not hand over Yemen to them. I hope you become their nightmare that haunts their sleep,” the note said.

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