Login

Saudis pummel Yemeni capital with airstrikes

photo.caption|escapejs

Photographs by AP/HANI MOHAMMED

Yemenis rally in Sanaa on Tuesday in support of the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have been blamed in the killing of Yemen’s former president.

SANAA, Yemen -- Heavy airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition rocked Yemen's capital Tuesday, striking Sanaa's densely populated neighborhoods in apparent retaliation for the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh by the Shiite rebels who control the city.

Residents reported heavy bombing, and a United Nations official said at least 25 airstrikes hit the capital over the previous 24 hours. The Saudi-led coalition battling the rebels had thrown its support behind Saleh just hours before his death, as the longtime strongman's alliance with the rebels unraveled.

Saleh's body, which had appeared in a video by the militias with a gaping head wound, was taken to a rebel-controlled military hospital. A rebel leader, speaking at a rally in Sanaa, said Saleh's sons had been hospitalized, without providing further details.

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 Tuesday on Facebook that he won't receive condolences for his father's death until "after avenging the blood" of the former leader. Salah also urged his father's followers to fight their former allies, the Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit meanwhile denounced Saleh's "assassination" at the hands of "criminal militias" and warned of a further escalation of the war and Yemen's humanitarian crisis. A spokesman 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.

Iran, which supports the Houthis but denies arming them, welcomed Saleh's killing.

"He got what he deserved," Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Iran's supreme leader, was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Tasnim news agency.

Saleh's slaying likely gives the rebels the upper hand in the clashes in Sanaa, which ended after his death, while also dashing the hopes of Yemen's Saudi-backed government that the former president's recent split with the Iranian-allied Houthis would have weakened them.

Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, a rebel leader, said Tuesday that "some sons" of Saleh have been hospitalized. Speaking before the large rally, al-Houthi said Saleh was "deceived ... we hadn't hoped for what happened."

The end of the alliance between the Houthis and Saleh might have tilted the three-year civil war in favor of Yemen's internationally recognized government and the Saudi-led coalition.

But with Saleh's forces seemingly in disarray, it was not immediately clear if the Saudi-led coalition would be able to turn the split to its advantage. Many Sanaa residents remained hunkered down in their homes, fearing the rebels and the Saudi airstrikes, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear 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.

Information for this article was contributed by Samy Magdy of The Associated Press.

A Section on 12/06/2017

Log in to comment