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Yemeni politician killed day after agreement to form new government

The secretary-general of the Union of Popular Forces party, a moderator between Shia Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government, was shot in the neck and killed, his family says.

By Fred Lambert

SANAA, Yemen, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The leader of a political party in Yemen was killed in the streets of the country's capital one day after the formation of a multi-party, technocratic government.

Mohammed Abdel Malek al-Mutawakel was fatally shot in the neck Sunday by a gunman riding a motorcycle in Sanaa, his family told media sources. Mutawakel was the secretary-general of the Union of Popular Forces party, one of several political factions in Yemen and a rival of the Shia Houthi militants from the north of the country.

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The Houthis fought to overthrow the Sunni-led government in Sanaa for months until the U.N.brokered a peace deal between the two sides in September after the Houthis had seized much of the capital. That deal brought about the a new, Houthi-nominated prime minister, who late last month handed Yemen's oil infrastructure to the Shia rebels. The Yemeni governmment has also faced threats from al-Qaida-linked militants in the country's south.

Mutawakel was seen as a moderator between the Houthis and the central government, but was also accused of privately backing the Shia rebels.

His death comes a day after Yemen's political factions signed an agreement allowing the president and prime minister to create a technocratic government inclusive of all signatories, including the Houthi's Ansarallah party.

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Al Jazeera coorespondent Omar Al Saleh said that Mutawakel's assassination would prove destabilizing in the face of such progress, since he was seen as a "link between the warring parties."

The agreement was attached to the U.N. ceasefire in September, but since then, Houthis issued an ultimatum to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, warning that "all options were open" if he failed to form a government in 10 days.

Also on Sunday, al-Qaida militants attacked security posts and headquarters in Hudeidah with light and medium weapons, looting a weapons depot and killing 19 Yemeni soldiers.

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