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Photos posted online show the body of a man resembling Ali Abdullah Saleh with a severe head wound.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former leader, killed in Sanaa fighting

File photo showing Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh (R) delivers a speech in Sanaa, Yemen (24 August 2017)Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ali Abdullah Saleh became an ally of the Houthis after Yemen’s civil war began in 2015

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed amid fighting between his supporters and their former allies, the Houthi rebel movement.

Officials from Mr Saleh’s General People’s Congress party said he died in an attack south of the capital, Sanaa.

The Houthis’ leader hailed the news as a “great and significant occasion”.

Abdul Malik al-Houthi said it had foiled a “conspiracy” by a Saudi-led coalition backing the government, to whom Mr Saleh had made peace overtures.

Until last week, Mr Saleh’s supporters had been fighting alongside the Houthis in a war against Yemen’s current president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

But longstanding political tensions and a dispute over control of the main mosque in the rebel-controlled capital, Sanaa, triggered fierce clashes that have left more than 125 people dead and 238 wounded since Wednesday night.

On Saturday, Mr Saleh offered to “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition backing Mr Hadi if it stopped attacking Yemen and ended its crippling blockade.

The coalition and Mr Hadi’s government welcomed the comments. But the Houthis accused Mr Saleh of staging a “coup” against “an alliance he never believed in”.

Overnight, Sanaa was rocked by coalition air strikes on Houthi positions and clashes on the ground involving heavy weapons as the conflict between the rivals escalated. Aid workers said the violence trapped civilians inside their homes.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Houthi fighters attacked and took control of Mr Saleh’s home in central Sanaa on Monday

Hakim Almasmari, editor of the Yemen Post newspaper, told Al Jazeera TV that Houthi fighters had opened fire on Saleh’s convoy as it passed through a checkpoint on the way from Sanaa to his hometown of Sanhan.

A video circulated on social media showed the body of a man resembling Mr Saleh with a severe head wound. It was being carried on a red blanket by several armed men shouting “Praise be to God!” and “Hey Ali Affash!” – the name of Mr Saleh’s clan.

A statement by the Houthi-run interior ministry, carried by rebel-aligned media, announced “the killing of the leader of treachery and a number of his followers”.

Officials from Mr Saleh’s General People’s Congress later confirmed that he had been killed in an incident outside Sanaa.

“He was martyred in the defence of the republic,” Faiqa al-Sayyid, a leader of the party, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Mr Saleh came to power as president of North Yemen in 1978. When the country was united with South Yemen in 1990 he became president of the new republic.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tensions with the Houthis rose after Mr Saleh’s party held a rally in Sanaa in August

The Houthis, who champion Yemen’s Zaidi Shia minority, fought a series of rebellions against Mr Saleh between 2004 and 2010. They also supported an uprising in 2011 that forced Mr Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, Mr Hadi.

Mr Saleh’s supporters formed a surprise alliance with the Houthis in 2014, when they seized Sanaa amid widespread disillusionment at the political transition and Mr Hadi’s failure to tackle corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.

In early 2015, the allies ousted Mr Hadi, forcing the president to flee initially to the second city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition responded by launching a military campaign to restore Mr Hadi’s government.

Since then, more than 8,670 people have been killed and 49,960 injured.

The conflict and a blockade by the coalition has also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have killed 2,211 people since April.

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