Politics & Policy

Ali Abdullah Saleh Fires Cabinet; Military Officers Defect

The demonstrations in Yemen are uncannily paralleling those in Egypt. In the past few days, Saleh has ordered more restraint for security forces, whose snipers reportedly killed more than 50 protesters last week, replacing them with soldiers wielding batons. Then, last night, Saleh fired his entire cabinet, in a concessionary display that did not appease protesters. And now, disgusted by the killing of civilians, several very senior military officers have announced their support for the demonstrators, as well as at least seven Yemeni diplomats and several local officials. The New York Times reports:

The generals were Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsin Saleh, a powerful figure who commands forces in the country’s northwest, three other brigadier generals and a general. The five said they had decided to support the protesters after watching the bloody clashes on Friday.

“I declare on their behalf our peaceful support for the youth revolution and that we are going to fulfill our complete duty in keeping the security and stability in the capital,” General Saleh said in an interview on Al Jazeera on Monday. He said that violence against protesters was “pushing the country to the edge of civil war.”

By Monday afternoon, tanks and soldiers loyal to the president were positioned around the presidential palace, while miles away, those directed by General Saleh pledged their support for protesters and, for the first time, stood around the demonstration to protect it.

Some of the soldiers at the demonstration draped black, white and red ribbons over their chest, the colors of Yemen’s flag. “We are with the people,” said a group of soldiers guarding the main entrance of the protest.

Saleh claimed that the Yemeni people mostly supported him and he would not step down. State media quoted him saying, “We’re still here… the great majority of the Yemeni people are with security, stability and constitutional law.”

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Yemen’s defense minister voiced his support for Saleh, according to Al Jazeera:

“The armed forces will stay faithful to the oath they gave before God, the nation and political leadership under the brother president Ali Abdullah Saleh…, […] We will not allow under any circumstances an attempt at a coup against democracy and constitutional legitimacy, or violation of the security of the nation and citizens.”

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