Tribal sources in the Yemeni province of Marib have told Al Jazeera that Tareq Abdullah Saleh, the commander of the Presidential Guard and nephew of late ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, is still alive – contrary to earlier reports of his demise.
Sources said a photo circulated on social media of Tareq Abdullah Saleh wounded during the same attack that killed the former president on December 4 is old.
They confirmed that Tareq Abdullah Saleh left the capital, Sanaa, to Marib on December 7 with several of his aides, three days after the killing of his uncle by Houthi rebels.
The sources added that forces loyal to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stationed in Marib facilitated Tareq’s departure by providing a plane on which he flew to the Gulf country.
The sources did not clarify whether Tareq remains in the UAE.
Two days before Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by the Houthis, the overthrown president publicly broke ties with his former allies and expressed his openness to talks with a Saudi-led coalition battling the rebels since 2015.
According to sources in Abu Dhabi, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were keen on negotiating with international and Yemeni players to give a political role to the late president’s son, Ahmed.
However, Ahmed reportedly said he was not ready to assume such a role, leading the two countries to turn to Tareq.
Tareq was widely seen as one of the closest aides to the late president.
Ali Abdullah Saleh depended on him militarily and politically, along with Tareq’s two brothers: Ammar, the former deputy director of the country’s National Security Bureau, and Yehya, the former central security chief.
Tareq contributed to the formation of special forces that were loyal to him, prior to the last schism between Saleh’s forces and Houthi rebels.
Observers believe that the recent disputes within the ranks of Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress, came after a period of mistrust between the leadership that has been split between the Saudi capital Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Sanaa.
They say that a wave of incrimination has overshadowed the GPC, with each side holding the other responsible for Saleh’s death.