ALI Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president and long-time strongman, has been killed as his loyalists and Shiite rebels battled for control of the capital.

A video circulating online purported to show Saleh’s body, motionless with a gaping head wound, as he was being carried in a blanket by rebel fighters. Circumstances of his death remain unclear but some officials said rebels killed him as he tried to leave the capital. Saleh’s death was announced on yesterday by Houthi rebels, who have been fighting Saleh’s forces for the past week.

Two of Saleh’s associates and a third official from the government of Yemen’s internationally recognised president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, have confirmed the death.

His death and the fighting between his supporters and the Houthis puts the civil war on an unpredictable path.

Saleh allied with the Houthis in the years after he was ousted from power, and the support of his loyalist military units was key to helping the Houthis overrun the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, driving out Hadi’s government. But in recent months, the alliance frayed amid Houthi suspicions Saleh was leaning toward the Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi.

Saleh ruled Yemen for more than 30 years. He was forced to resign after protests against him during an Arab Spring uprising in 2011.