The United Nations says the death of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in an attack in Sana’a will add an extreme level of complexity an already difficult political situation.
Saleh was killed in a roadside attack after switching sides in the country’s civil war, reportedly over his abandoning of the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in favour of a Saudi-led coalition.
Pictures of the former president’s corpse, wrapped in a blanket, have been circulating on social media clearly showing a bullet wound to his head.
The images are gruesome but the face has a striking resemblance to the former president.
Officials from Saleh’s General People’s Congress Party (GPC) confirmed he died in an attack south of the capital.
The Secretary General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric called the events disturbing.
“It obviously adds an extreme level of complexity to already a very difficult political situation, we have seen extremely worrying rise of violence in Sana’a as I’ve mentioned over the last few days, this only adds another layer of suffering to the people of Yemen, especially those right now in Sana’a, civilian infrastructure is being targeted, ambulances are being attacked,” Dujarric said.
Saleh’s death comes just days after he moved to align himself with the Saudi-led coalition that is trying to reinstall Yemen’s internationally recognized government that operates from outside of the capital.
The Houthis, who control the capital, viewed this as a coup and killed him.
Dujarric said “We have no independent confirmation, we’ve seen the press reports, we’ve seen the photos that are circulating, we’ve the statements from the GPC itself but we have no independent confirmation, we take it that it’s happened but it’s not something we are able to confirm.”
Saleh loyalist had been in an alliance with the Houthis since 2015 in an effort to oust the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi which the Saudi coalition supports.
The UN says no humanitarian flights have been able to reach the capital over the last few days.
“We remind all parties to the conflict that deliberate attacks against civilians and against civilian and medical infrastructure are clear violations of international humanitarian law, it may constitute war crimes, Our humanitarian colleagues are receiving desperate calls for help by families but are unable to reach those who have been injured and there have been reports of even ambulances coming under attack,” Secretary General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says.
UN Chief Antonio Guterres earlier said the outbreak of violence in the capital could not come at a worse time for the people of Yemen already caught up in the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
His Special Envoy, who is currently in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, will brief the Security Council via videolink Tuesday on the latest developments.
There is widespread concern that Saleh’s death will escalate the fighting in the days and weeks ahead.