SANAA, Yemen — Heavy airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition pounded Yemen’s capital overnight, targeting Sanaa’s densely populated neighborhoods in apparent retaliation for the killing of the former Yemeni president by the country’s Shiite rebels, residents said.
The body of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which had appeared in a video by the militias with a gaping head wound, was taken to the city’s military rebel-controlled hospital but it was not immediately clear if the rebels would allow Saleh’s family to hold a funeral later in the day.
The gruesome images from the previous day sent shockwaves among Saleh’s followers — a grisly end recalling that of his contemporary, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011.
Saleh’s son Salah said on Facebook on Tuesday that he won’t receive condolences for his father’s death until “after avenging the blood” of the longtime strongman. Salah also urged his father’s followers to fight their former allies, the Shiite rebels known as Houthis.
From Cairo, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit issued a statement Tuesday denouncing Saleh’s “assassination” at the hands of “criminal militias,” and warned Yemen’s situation could explode further and worsen humanitarian crisis. The League spokesman, Mahmoud Afifi, quoted Aboul-Gheit as saying the international community should label the Houthis a “terrorist” organization.
“All means should be tackled for the Yemeni people to get rid of this black nightmare,” he said.
Saleh’s slaying likely gives the rebels the upper hand in the days-long fighting for Sanaa while also shattering hopes by Yemen’s Saudi-backed government that the former president’s recent split with the Houthis would have weakened them.
That would give Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Saudi-led coalition backing it and waging war on the Houthis a chance for a turning point in the stalemated conflict that has brought humanitarian disaster.
But with Saleh’s forces seemingly in disarray, it was not immediately clear if the Saudi-led coalition will be able to turn the split to its advantage in the war. Many Sanaa residents remained hunkered down in their homes, fearing the rebels and the Saudi airstrikes, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fears for their safety.
Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades until an Arab Spring uprising forced him to step down in 2012. He later allied with the Houthi rebels hoping to exploit their strength to return to power. That helped propel Yemen into the ruinous civil war that has spread hunger and disease among its 28 million people.
Houthi officials said their fighters killed Saleh as he tried to flee the capital for his nearby hometown of Sanhan. The Houthis’ top leader, Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, said Saleh paid the price for his “treason,” accusing him of betraying their alliance to side with the Saudi-led coalition.Read More...
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