Al-Sammad, Saleh Ali (Yemen)

Reference work entry


Saleh Ali al-Sammad was sworn in as president of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council in Aug. 2016. He was the leader of the Iranian-backed Houthi movement that in Sept. 2014 wrested control of the capital Sana’a from President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government. The international community does not recognize the authority of the Supreme Political Council. On 19 April 2018 he was killed in a drone strike.

Early Life

Saleh al-Sammad was born in 1979 in Yemen’s northern Saada governorate. The Shia Houthi movement to which he belongs is an offshoot of Ansar Allah, a theological group founded in the 1990s. In Sept. 2014 the Houthis seized control of Sana’a and agreed to a UN-brokered deal to take part in a unity government. However, in Jan. 2015 they rejected proposals to divide the country into six regions and forced the resignation of President Hadi (which he later retracted). A month later they replaced his government with a presidential council and announced that the council would form a transitional administration. In Aug. 2016, after tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Sana’a to declare their support for the Houthis, al-Sammad announced the establishment of a ten-member presidential council to govern the capital and other parts of the country under its control. The decree led to the breakdown of UN-sponsored peace talks.

Career Peak

With different Yemeni factions serving as proxies for other regional powers, Saleh al-Sammad faced a military campaign to regain Sana’a by the Saudi-led coalition backing Aden-based President Hadi. By the end of 2017 the conflict had inflicted devastation on what was already the poorest country in the Middle East, but with little prospect of peace in an apparent stalemate. Saleh al-Sammad was killed in a Saudi-led drone air strike on 19 April 2018 according to Houthi officials.

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