Saudi-led strikes pound Yemen capital after rebels kill Saleh

AFP , Tuesday 5 Dec 2017

Smoke rises during the battle between former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's supporters and the Houthi fighters in Sanaa, Yemen December 2, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)

Saudi-led warplanes pounded the rebel-held Yemeni capital before dawn on Tuesday after the rebels killed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as he fled the city following the collapse of their uneasy alliance, residents said.

The Shia Houthi rebels moved swiftly to consolidate their control over Sanaa after nearly a week of deadly clashes with Saleh loyalists.

Exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi called on Yemenis to unite against the Iran-backed insurgents.

At least seven strikes hit the presidential palace in a densely populated residential neighbourhood in the heart of Sanaa, witnesses said.

There was immediate word on any casualties.

The streets emptied before dark on Monday as coalition aircraft swooped low over the city.

There were a few minor clashes between the Houthis and Saleh supporters in southern districts which had been loyal to the strongman.

But there was no repetition of the heavy fighting that had rocked the capital for the five previous nights, residents said.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for three decades, had joined forces with the Houthi rebels in 2014 when they took control of large parts of the country, including the capital.

But that alliance unravelled over the past week, with dozens reported dead in clashes as the former leader reached out to the Saudi-led coalition that has waged devastating air strikes against the Houthis since September 2015.

The Houthis announced Saleh's death on their Al-Masirah television channel, declaring the "end of the crisis of militias" -- referring to his armed supporters, to whom the government has offered an amnesty.

Yemen's war has left thousands dead since 2015, led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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