Yemen's Huthi rebels claimed on Monday that ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh had been killed as fighting shook the capital Sanaa following the collapse of his alliance with the insurgents.
The claim, which could not be independently confirmed, came as Yemen's long and devastating civil war took a potentially decisive turn.
Heavy clashes were reported in the city between forces loyal to Saleh and the Iran-backed Shia rebels, who together seized control of Sanaa from the internationally recognised government three years ago.
Moving to take advantage of the chaos, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, ordered his forces to advance on the capital.
The Huthi-controlled interior ministry announced Saleh's death on the rebels' Al-Masirah television station.
A statement read on the channel announced the "end of the crisis of militias," referring to Saleh's armed supporters, and "the killing of their leader and a number of his criminal supporters."
A video given to AFP by the rebels showed what appeared to be a dead Saleh with a severe head injury, his body wrapped in a floral-print blanket.
An AFP photographer who approached Saleh's home in southern Sanaa on Monday found it in the hands of the Huthis and was prevented from entering. The house appeared to have been damaged in fighting.
The alliance between Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades before resigning in 2012, unravelled over the past week, with at least 100 people reported dead in fighting, accusations of betrayal and the former leader reaching out to the Saudi-led coalition.
As witnesses reported continued heavy fighting on Monday, Hadi ordered his forces to launch an offensive to advance on the capital.
"The president has ordered Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who is in Marib (east of Sanaa), to activate military units and advance towards the capital," a presidency official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government also reached out to Saleh's supporters with an offer of amnesty.
"The president will soon announce a general amnesty for all those who collaborated with the Huthis in recent months and who have retracted that allegiance," Prime Minister Ahmad Obaid bin Daghr said.
The Saleh-Huthi alliance had been fraught since its inception in 2014, when the two ended decades of enmity and joined ranks to capture Sanaa from Hadi's government.
Saudi Arabia, accusing arch-rival Iran of backing the rebels, intervened in the Yemen war on behalf of the government the following year.