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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Yemen crisis: How did Ali Abdullah Saleh die?

According to one well-informed source in Sanaa, the former Yemeni president and his entourage were targeted while trying to flee the capital on Monday by Houthi rebels who executed the plan as part of an agreement between former Saleh loyalists and Qatar

A man looks at an armoured personnel carrier damaged during recent clashes between Houthi fighters and forces loyal to Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 5, 2017. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
A man looks at an armoured personnel carrier damaged during recent clashes between Houthi fighters and forces loyal to Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 5, 2017. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

A day after former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was shot dead, the circumstances of his killing remain unclear with some reports claiming it was a result of betrayal.

According to one well-informed source in Sanaa, Saleh and his entourage were targeted while trying to flee the Yemeni capital on Monday by Houthi rebels who executed the plan as part of an agreement between former Saleh loyalists and Qatar.

Saleh, his son, Madyan, and Yasser Al Awadhi and Aref Al Zuka, of Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, were fleeing from the former president’s house in Hadda when they were attacked by gunmen, according to a journalist at the Yemen Today television channel – which is owned by Saleh.

The men reportedly decided to leave Saleh’s house to go to the village of Sanhan – Saleh’s birthplace – after they received information that the Houthi rebels were closing in on them.

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Yemen’s Al Ayyam newspaper quoted a GPC source as saying Qatari officials made contact with Saleh and his entourage via Abdulmalik Al Sayan – a high-ranking official in the GPC. The source said that it was Al Sayan who convinced Saleh and his comrades to flee to Sanhan after guaranteeing them safe passage.

According to Salah Saleh, one of the former president’s children, his father was a victim of betrayal and Al Sayan was working with Qatar.

As the three men were approaching on Al Steen Street towards the Belad Al Roos area, east of Sanaa, to the village of Dhaber Al Kheerah near Sanhan, they found themselves cut off and surrounded by more than 30 Houthi rebels.

Al Sayan reportedly tipped off the Houthi rebels, who shot at Saleh’s vehicle that came to a halt. The Iran-backed group then shot Saleh and Al Awadhi and took both Saleh’s son, Madyan, and Al Zuka hostage, Al Ayyam daily reported.

The fate of the two men is still unknown.

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Read more: Yemen is now deadlier than before

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Saleh was killed by the rebels 48 hours after he announced he was open to talks with Saudi Arabia and its allies, ending three years of a shaky alliance with the Iran-backed Houthis.

Saudi Arabia called on Tuesday for a Yemen free of "militias supported by Iran”.

"The Saudi Arabian cabinet expresses the hope that the uprising of the Yemeni people against the sectarian terrorist Houthi militias supported by Iran will free Yemen of abuse, death threats and the appropriation of public and private property," it said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.