The sudden appearance of Tarek Mohammed Saleh, the nephew of late President Ali Abdullah Saleh and commander of his forces, confused on Thursday Houthi militias that sought since Saleh’s killing on December 4 to pull together his General People’s Congress (GPC) party and to “houthitize” its rhetoric and political directions.
More than a month after conflicting reports about his whereabouts, Tarek surfaced in video footage that spread on social media Thursday.
In the video, he is seen offering his condolences to the family of GPC secretary general Aref al-Zouka.
Despite difficulties in verifying the date and location of the visit, activists and supporters from the GPC said that Tarek was in the southern province of Shabwa, Zouka’s hometown.
In the video, he was seen addressing a crowd and reminding Houthis about his uncle’s vows.
Saleh’s nephew said he would remain committed to his uncle’s quest for peace in Yemen, adding that his country will not be separated from Arabism.
“We are with what the leader had willed, especially his demand to stop the war, lifting the siege from our people,” he said.
Local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Tarek Saleh’s convoy had arrived to the city of Ataq in the province of Shabwa accompanied by tribal sheikhs.
Houthi militias had distributed photos of Tarek Saleh and other GPC leaders to their affiliated checkpoints. The rebels consider Tarek as the most wanted figure from the GPC party.
On Thursday, there were still no details explaining how Tarek Saleh was able to escape. However, military sources said that he fled his uncle’s house with a group of his bodyguards who had attacked Houthi checkpoints near the area.
Tarek’s appearance raises several question on who should be the heir to Saleh’s political legacy and whether the former commander would avenge his uncle’s murder by the Houthis.