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Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's former president and longtime strongman, has been killed, according to multiple Yemeni officials, as his loyalists and Shi'ite rebels battled for control of the capital.

The Houthi-run Masirah TV announced the death of the "leader of the traitors", referring to Saleh, who ruled the country for more than three decades, and up until last week was in a fragile alliance with the rebels.

Images circulating on social media showed Saleh's body cradled in a floral blanket, with what appeared to be a large head wound.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television has quoted sources in former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's party as confirming he had been killed. The Houthis' Interior Ministry said Saleh was killed by rebels from the Shiite group.

"He was martyred in the defence of the republic", said Faiqa al-Sayyid, a leader in the General People's Congress, blaming Huthi rebels for Saleh's killing south of the capital Sanaa.

BBC World Service journalist Mai Noman said: "Saleh's death: shocking not just bec he ruled #Yemen for over 30yrs, he's been the key player in every major event even after being ousted".

Saleh's supporters managed on Saturday to seize control of several embassies and government buildings from the Houthis.

Two of Saleh's associates have confirmed and a third official from the government of Yemen's internationally recognized president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has also confirmed.

Saleh also called for a joint ceasefire between his allies and Houthi rebels, and the Saudi-led coalition, which has been at war with the impoverished country since March 2015. He remained in the country, however, and continued to wield political power from behind the scenes.

"In addition, the fault lines of the conflict pre-date Saleh's involvement with the Houthis and numerous foreign powers involved in the Yemeni conflict are driven by their own strategic interests in the region", he added. Witnesses said dead bodies, those of civilians and rebel fighters alike, littered the streets of Yemen's capital. Iran supports the Houthis but denies arming them.

Almost one million people have been infected by cholera in Yemen this year, including more than 2,200 people who have died, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 15,000 people have been killed, roughly half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.


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