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Houthis 'declare war' on ally Ali Abdullah Saleh amid signs of divorce

Saleh recently lambasted the Houthis in a speech triggering the falling out [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 August, 2017

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Tensions between Yemen's Houthi rebels and their ally deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh have reached boiling point in recent hours threatening to erupt into armed conflict between the two sides
Tensions between Yemen's Houthi rebels and their ally deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh have reached boiling point in recent hours threatening to erupt into armed conflict between the two sides in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Late on Tuesday, the Houthis issued a statement that contained an unprecedented attack on Saleh, carrying thinly veiled threats against his forces. While a second Houthi statement appears to have backed down from earlier remarks, the tensions remained high into Wednesday morning.

"(Ali Abdullah) Saleh crossed the redline...and must bear the consequences of what he said, and those who initiate (war) bear the blame," the initial statement said, adding that the Yemeni people shall continue to mobilise to strenghen all battlefronts, in an apparent threat against Saleh and his loyalist army.

The initial statement by the Popular Committees, the armed wing of the Houthis, accused Saleh of stabbing them in the back, after he described them as a "militia", criticising their handling of the war and hinting at a divorce in a speech earlier this week.

Sources close to Saleh's General People's Congress party said the statement was a 'declaration of war', proclaiming they were ready to counter the Houthi threat.

Reacting to the statement, Yasser al-Awadi, senior official in Saleh's GPC, tweeted that his side was "ready for all options", in an apparent reference to military action.

A second statement from the chairman of the Houthis' so-called Supreme Revolutionary Committee attempted to contain the tensions however.

"We must not allow the country to slide to internal conflicts, and must focus on the fronts fighting against agression," said Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, in reference to the Saudi-led intervention against his and Saleh's forces. However, the statement called on the GPC to apologise for Saleh's remarks critical of the group.

Signs of a Houthi-Saleh divorce began to emerge this year amid reports of a Saudi-Emirati attempt to coopt the deposed president to make a deal against his allies in return for returning him or his son and loyalists to power.

Saleh as president had fought successive wars against the Houthis and that could once again become the norm.

The ongoing war, which began with a Saudi-led intervention against Houthi-Saleh rebels, has plunged Yemen into one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history, with over three million people displaced and over 10,000 dead due to the conflict.

War has also unleashed a deadly cholera epidemic in the country - one which has been described by humanitarian groups as a direct result of the war.

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