Yemen rebel leader may be dead

It seems increasingly likely that Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the northern rebels in Yemen, is dead.

He was reportedly injured in an airstrike on December 17 and is said to have died later from his wounds. According to the latest reports, he was secretly buried on Saturday in al-Malahidh, next to the home of Ahmed al-Hadawi, a family friend.

It is of course possible that the stories of his death are being circulated for propaganda purposes (and the Yemeni government is certainly trying to capitalise on them by urging rebels to surrender). But an apparent slip of the tongue when the rebels' spokesman referred to Houthi as a "martyr" in a BBC interview has given the stories credibility.

The rebels, perhaps concerned about morale among their supporters, continue to insist he is still alive – though so far they have produced no evidence to support their claim.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 27 December 2009.