Mohammed Badreddin al-Houthi, a key leader in Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement, was killed near northern Sadaa province, the Suhail News website reported Saturday. The report could not be independently verified.
News of the reported death came as representatives from the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebel group agreed during U.N.-brokered peace talks Saturday to form a committee to oversee an increasingly fragile ceasefire after fresh fighting derailed their efforts to end nearly nine months of conflict in the country. A source close to the talks told Gulf News the committee will be headed by a Lebanese army general.
The warring sides agreed to a seven-day truce this week to aid the chances of successful peace talks. But each side has accused the other of repeated violations of the ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Yemen plunged into civil war when the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group, seized the capital of Sanaa in September 2014, forcing the Sunni-led government into exile. Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an air campaign in late March targeting the Houthis after President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his administration fled to Riyadh. The United States supports the coalition, which includes Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, to push back the Houthis, who control large swathes in the country’s north.
The conflict has essentially pitted regional enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran against each other in a battle for Middle East supremacy while igniting Sunni-Shiite tensions. The Houthis are backed by Iran’s Shiite government, and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni government supports Hadi, who returned to Yemen’s port city of Aden in September.
The war has killed nearly 6,000 people, including civilians, and has displaced millions, putting the Arab world’s poorest country in a humanitarian crisis and on the brink of famine. It also has led to a security vacuum that has strengthened extremist groups in the region, including al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, Reuters reported.