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article imageYemen's Saleh makes first appearance since Huthi clash

By AFP     Aug 31, 2017 in World

Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh made his first appearance in Sanaa at the funeral of a colonel killed in clashes with his rebel allies, media run by Saleh's party reported Thursday.

Coverage of the funeral of Colonel Khaled al-Radhi, a high-ranking official in Saleh's General People's Congress who was killed along with two rebels in a shootout last week, aired on the GPC-controlled Al Yemen Al Yom television channel.

The footage, recorded Wednesday, showed the former president praying over what the channel identified as Radhi's casket before addressing a crowd of mourners.

The appearance comes amid rumours that Saleh had either fled Sanaa, which he jointly controls with the Huthi rebels in their war against the Saudi-backed government, or was under house arrest by the Huthis following unprecedented violence between the allies at the weekend.

Cracks have emerged in the rebel alliance between Saleh and Abdul Malik al-Huthi, head of the Shiite Zaidi Huthi rebels who is allied with Iran, escalating into an armed battle at a rebel checkpoint in Sanaa in which Radhi -- head of foreign relations with the GPC -- and the two Huthis were killed.

An uneasy calm has since returned to Sanaa, with rebel and GPC sources saying armed forces loyal to both Huthi and Saleh have slowly begun to withdraw from the streets, after a heavy deployment following Saturday's shootout.

A mediation committee has also been set up to try to restore ties between the two rebel forces, according to a security source involved in the committee. Saleh's forces are reportedly demanding the Huthis hand over those responsible for the killing of Radhi.

A war of words broke out earlier this month between Saleh and his once-foe Huthi, with the former president terming his allies "a militia" and the rebels firing back that he was a "back-stabber" and "traitor".

Huthi reportedly suspects Saleh has been negotiating with Gulf states in an Arab military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, which supports Yemen's government.

Saleh resigned under popular and political pressure in 2012, ceding the presidency to his vice president, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Two years later, Saleh and Huthi joined ranks in a shock alliance that drove Hadi's government out of Sanaa and ushered the rebels in.

The two have since fought troops loyal to Hadi as well as the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in the war in 2015 in support of the internationally recognised Hadi government.

More than 8,400 civilians have been killed since the intervention, with political deadlock, a blockaded airport and ports, and poverty pushing the country to the brink of famine.

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