SANAA (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a leader of a liberal Yemeni political party that is close to the powerful Houthi rebel group on Sunday, the official state news agency Saba said.
The killing took place one day after Yemen’s main political factions, including the Houthis, signed an agreement mandating the president and prime minister to form a new government in an effort to defuse political tensions in the impoverished state.
Gunmen on a motorbike shot Mohamed Abdelmalik al-Motawakal of the Union of Popular Forces party as he was walking in a street close to his home in central Sanaa, Saba said. He died in hospital, medical sources said.
The Zaydi Houthis are close to the Union of Popular Forces, which is a liberal party but dominated by Zaydis, a sect of Shi’ite Islam that predominates in Northern Yemen
In recent months, the Houthis have become Yemen’s main power-brokers and sent their militiamen into the west and center of the country, far beyond their traditional redoubts. They captured the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21, following weeks of anti-government unrest.
The Zaydi Houthi movement, which calls itself Ansar Allah, condemned the assassination and blamed the government for not providing better security.
The Houthi takeover of Sanaa and their spread into central and west Yemen antagonized Sunni tribesmen and al Qaeda militants, who regard the Houthis as heretics.
On Saturday 20 Yemeni soldiers and three suspected al Qaeda militants died in clashes in the town of Jabal Ras in Yemen’s western province of Hodeida.
Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari, Writing By Maha El Dahan, Editing by Angus MacSwan