SanaaThe political leader of Yemen’s Ansarullah movement which controls capital Sanaa and much of the north has been killed in Saudi-led air strikes on Hudaida province, the group said on Monday.
Al-Masirah TV network, close to the group, reported that Saleh al-Sammad, the president of the Supreme Political Council that runs Yemen’s capital and other rebel-held areas, was killed on Thursday.
The group said it had elected Mahdi al-Mashat as Sammad’s successor.
In a televised address later on Monday, the Ansarullah leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said that, overall, seven people were killed in Thursday’s air raids.
“This crime will not break the will of our people and state … [and] will not pass without accountability,” he added.
“The forces of this aggression led by Washington and the Saudi regime are legally responsible for such a crime and all its implications.”
There was no immediate comment by the Saudi-led coalition.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry also vowed a “crushing response” to the assassination of a senior official, saying Saudi Arabia and the US will regret their “criminal adventurism.”
In a statement carried by the official Saba news agency on Monday, the ministry stressed that the Yemeni armed forces reserve the right to deal severe blows to “the aggressors and their evil coalition,” who will not be safe from ballistic missiles.
Comprising mostly of Houthi tribe which is traditionally based in Yemen’s northwest, Ansarullah overran much of the country, including Sanaa, in 2014, ousting the US and Saudi backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
In March 2015, a coalition of Arab countries assembled by Saudi Arabia launched a massive bombing campaign aimed at rolling back the rebels’ advances.
Since then, the Saudis have carried out more than 16,000 air raids, resulting in mass civilian casualties with weddings, hospitals and funerals targeted. The United States has been helping the coalition with weaponry and logistical support.
On Sunday, two Saudi-led coalition air attacks killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens in northwestern Yemen, according to residents and medical personnel.
Most of the dead were women and children who were gathering in a tent set up for a wedding party in Hajjah’s Bani Qays district, a medical official told Al Jazeera.
Hakim Almasmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, said al-Sammad’s death was a “very significant” development.
“He was the acting president in the Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, so this is considered the biggest blow for the movement, politically, since the war started,” he told Al Jazeera.
Almasmari noted that the location of the incident was also important.
“Hudaida is considered the most secure place for the movement,” he said.
“It’s not a secret that Hudeida is much more secured than even Sanaa itself, so for him to be killed in Hudeidah, under all the extreme security measures that they go through there, [raises questions] whether they are infiltrated in Hudeida province itself or within the intelligence apparatus in general.”
Almasmari also said it was not surprising that al-Sammad’s had been replaced by Mahdi al-Mashat, whom he described as “a very influential figure within the movement”.
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