Yemen's Houthis ready to hand over Saleh's body to family

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But the head of the Houthis' Ansarullah group warned that the biggest victor from what he described as Saleh's "sedition" was the Saudi-led coalition.

Iran, which supports the Houthis but denies arming them, welcomed Saleh's killing, saying it had put an end to a Saudi conspiracy.

The fighting was triggered by power struggles within the rebel camp, which has been at war since March 2015 with a Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally recognized government. Saleh's forces were key to helping the Houthis overrun Sanaa in 2014, and then much of the north and center of the country.

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Yemen's civil war has killed more than 10,000 people since 2015, displaced more than two million people, caused a cholera outbreak infecting nearly one million people and put the country on the brink of starvation. REUTERS/Khaled AbdullahSaleh's decision to abandon the Houthis was the most dramatic development in three years of stalemate.

The Houthis and Saleh's forces began fighting each other in Sanaa last week. Several had been killed in the raids. A rebel leader, speaking at a rally in Sanaa, said Saleh's wounded sons had been hospitalized, without providing further details.

Houthi officials said their fighters killed Saleh as he tried to flee the capital for his nearby hometown of Sanhan. A man rides a motorbike on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2017.

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The clashes underscore the complex situation in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, where a proxy war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed Hadi has caused one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in recent times. The council called the deteriorating humanitarian situation "dire", saying Yemen "stands at the brink of catastrophic starvation". Speaking with reporters on a military aircraft en route to Washington, Mattis said his death could either push the conflict towards United Nations peace negotiations or make it an "even more vicious war". The UN secretary-general's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, called on all parties to show restraint.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades, allied with Houthis after an Arab Spring uprising forced him to resign in 2012.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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