The Houthi soldiers who killed Ali Abdullah Saleh at a road checkpoint did not know he was in the vehicle, a Yemeni journalist with close ties to the movement told Euronews.
Saleh was seeking to escape fighting around his home in the capital Sanaa after having split from his former Houthi allies when his vehicle arrived at a roadblock.
"Saleh was killed in a battle at one of the checkpoints in the outskirts of Sana'a while trying to escape. The officers on the spot were unaware that Abdullah Saleh was in the car, but when the driver refused to stop, a heavy exchange of fire took place," Hussein al-Bekhiti, a journalist and Houthi activist said in a telephone interview.
The group, also known as Ansar Allah, see the death of the former president as a major victory.
"Yemen will be better and stronger, we can not have two leaders of one state, and the death of Saleh represents the fall of the last card of the Arab Alliance. Ansar Allah has taken full control," al-Bekhiti said.
He insisted that Saleh's movement was already divided over his decision last week to seek a deal with the Saudi-Arabian led coalition which is fighting the Iranian-backed Houthis.
Saleh led Yemen for three decades before being forced from power almost six years ago. He returned to political influence after joining forces with the Houthis to oust the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Saudi Arabia responded by forming a coalition to try to return Hadi to power.
Riyad reacted to news of Saleh's death by issuing a statement calling on Yemen to return to the Arab fold.