The Iran-backed Houthi militias confirmed on Monday the death of head of its coup council Saleh al-Sammad.
It said that he was killed in a Saudi-led Arab coalition strike on Thursday and that Mahdi al-Mshat was appointed as his successor.
Asharq Al-Awsat had reported on Friday that mystery surrounded his fate, while media leaks did not rule out the possibility of a dispute among the Houthis over a shortage in recruits.
Sammad was head of the so-called Houthi political council and the second most wanted figure on a list released by the Arab coalition. A reward of 20 million dollars had been put up for any information that would lead to his arrest.
Observers believe that other prominent Houthi leaders are expected to fall after Sammad’s death. The militia has not however revealed the fate of any of his companions in order to preserve the morale of its forces.
Sources told al-Arabiya television on Monday that over 20 leading Houthi figures were also killed in the strike that eliminated Sammad. The coalition strike targeted his vehicle as he was traveling in southern Hodeidah.
The Houthis announced a three-day period of mourning for Sammad. Its flags will be flown at half-mast for 40 days, as well. They called for a heavy turnout for his funeral, the time and place of which have not been set yet.
Official Yemen government spokesman Rajeh Badi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sammad’s death “is no doubt a major blow to the coup movement.”
“We are still investigating information that he was killed along with other prominent figures,” he added.
He described this as a major sign of the Houthis’ imminent demise and retreat amid the major victories the national army is scoring on various fronts with the significant support of the coalition, led by Saudi Arabia.
Mshat is a senior Houthi figure, who adheres to its hardline ideology. He has a major say in all of the militant group’s financial and political decisions.
He enjoys the support of Houthi commanders Mohammed Ali al-Houthi and Abdul Karim al-Houthi, who is believed to be the strongman operating behind the scenes and acts as the actual ruler of Sanaa.