Al Mukalla: A group of ousted president’s supporters have said the Iran-backed Al Houthi militia is still holding the body of their leader, refuting previous media reports about his burial. In a statement, senior members of Saleh’s General People’s Congress, who have opted to live inside Al Houthi-held Sana’a, urged Al Houthis to release Saleh’s body and also his relatives who were detained after his death. Al Houthis ruthlessly killed Saleh on December 4 after he led a brief military uprising in Sana’a. Rebels subsequently mounted a large crackdown targeting Saleh’s military and civilian supporters, who opposed their repressive rule. “The General Committee [of the party] renews its demand for handing over the body of martyr Ali Abdullah Saleh for burial and [stresses] the need for releasing his children and relatives,” the statement said.
Almost a week after his death, media reports said Al Houthis allowed a small number of his relatives to bury him in the capital Sana’a. Saleh’s relatives have previously insisted on burying him in a mass procession in front of his mosque in Sana’a.
Saleh ruled Yemen from 1978 to 2012 before stepping down following massive Arab Spring inspired protests in early 2011. He was blamed for facilitating Al Houthis’ rapid military expansion by using his influence over military units. His killing has left his party in complete disarray as dozens of members fled the country and threw their weight behind the internationally-recognised president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi was chosen as head of the party and those who stayed put in Sana’a were deemed as hostages.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, government forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition fighter jets, pushed into Razah district in the northern province of Saada, Al Houthis’ heavily fortified bastion. Yemen’s Defence Minister said government forces pushed Al Houthis from a chain of mountains in Al Azhour region in Razah following heavy clashes with Al Houthis. Local commanders say their forces have positioned on mountainous areas almost 27km from Marran region, the birthplace of Al Houthi leader, Abdul Malek Al Houthi. The ministry has recently said government forces have opened up front fronts in four districts in Saada, aimed at eroding Al Houthis’ defences.
Three years ago, a Saudi-led coalition launched a heavy aerial bombardment against Al Houthis that titled the balance of the war in favour of government forces, who are in control of almost of 80 per cent of Yemen.