Al-MUKALLA: Gunmen shot and killed a senior Houthi official in Sanaa on Tuesday as an internal feud among the Iran-backed militia group threatened to spiral out of control.
Hassan Zaid, minister of youth and sports in the Houthi administration, died in hospital from his wounds after gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on his car in an area of the Yemeni capital that houses embassies.
His daughter, who was driving the car, was wounded in the attack. Witnesses said she cried for help and pleaded with passers-by to rescue her dying father.
The Houthi interior ministry alleged, without evidence, that Zaid was shot by “criminal elements” linked to the Saudi-led military coalition supporting the internationally recognized government.
However, Zaid was the most prominent of several Houthi officials killed this year in the capital and other militia-controlled areas, and experts told Arab News he was the victim of infighting between rival political wings.
Hardline Houthis from Saada, the rebels’ heartland, are settling scores with moderate figures such as Zaid who joined the group later, analysts said.
Zaid was a founding member of the Al-Haq party and a senior member of the Joint Meeting Parties, a gathering of opposition groups formed during former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s administration. He became a minister in Khaled Bahah’s government in 2014.
When the Houthis overthrew Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government in early 2015, Zaid switched sides and joined the rebels.
In 2017, he proposed closing schools for a year and sending students and teachers to fight. In 2017, the Arab coalition placed bounties on dozens of Houthi leaders, including Zaid, accusing them of orchestrating and supporting Houthi terror.
Meanwhile dozens of Houthi fighters, army troops and allied tribesmen have been killed in the past two days during fierce battles in the provinces of Sanaa, Jouf and Marib, local officers said on Tuesday.
Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesman, told Arab News that army troops backed by air support from coalition warplanes engaged in heavy fighting with Houthis in the Najed Al-Ateq region in Sanaa after rebels tried to seize a strategic military base.
“The national army and the tribesmen have foiled Houthi attacks and advanced on the ground,” Majili said.