Tareq: A commander out to avenge uncle’s death

Brig Gen Tareq Saleh arrives in Ataq city, Shabwa. He is seen as the natural leader in the fight against the Al Houthis.

Al Mukalla: Brigadier General Tareq Mohammad Abdullah Saleh comes from a military family. His uncle is Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s longest serving president who left office in early 2012 and his father is Major Mohammad Abdullah Saleh, the first commander of the Central Security Forces who died in 2001.


After the death of their father, Tareq’s brother, Brigadier General Yahiya was appointed to a key position in the Central Security Forces. Tareq’s younger brother, Mohammad, was a commander of elite forces in the Yemeni army.

When Saleh decided to revolt against Al Houthis in December, Tareq was the commander of his special guards and was assigned to fight off the Al Houthi assault on his house in the capital. As the battle intensified, Saleh’s relatives announced the death of Tareq, saying he died after suffering serious injuries and Ali Abdullah Saleh attended his ‘funeral prayer’.

Many Yemen watchers believe tribesmen who helped the younger Saleh escape Sana’a can assist his relatives in any military operation in the future.

In January, Tareq resurfaced in a government-controlled area where he called for revenge. Military experts believe Saleh had apparently asked Tareq to flee Sana’a to lead an anti-Al Houthi fight as the militia was closing in to kill him.

Using his uncle’s ties with powerful tribes outside Sana’a, Tareq slipped through rugged mountains and arrived injured to Marib province.

Many Yemen watchers believe tribesmen who helped the younger Saleh escape Sana’a can assist Saleh’s relatives in any military operation in the future.

For years, Tareq served as a military pillar of his uncle’s regime. He served as the commander of Saleh’s guards and he, his brother Yahiya and Saleh’s son Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh helped initiate counterterrorism operations when Al Qaida was trying to create a foothold in Yemen. When the Saudi-led coalition began bombing Al Houthi-held areas, Tareq and his uncle backed Al Houthis, and their well-trained and highly motivated forces were the driving force behind Al Houthis’ stiff resistance.

Tensions between Al Houthis and Saleh came to the fore when Saleh organised a big rally in Sana’a in August. Al Houthis accused Saleh’s nephew, Tareq, of training snipers and sending them to Sana’a instead of the battlefield.

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