Yemen generals defect to anti-government ranks
Published 22/03/2011 | 05:00
Three senior army commanders defected to anti-government ranks in Yemen yesterday and ordered their tanks on to the capital's streets in a show of force.
Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the army's powerful 1st Armoured Division, announced his defection in a message to protest leaders at the square in Sanaa that has become the centre of their movement.
Some of the division's tanks then deployed in the square, which protesters have occupied for more than a month to call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 32 years in power.
A crackdown on the demonstrations escalated on Friday when Mr Saleh's forces opened fire from rooftops, killing more than 40 in an assault that caused much of his remaining power base to splinter.
The president appeared to be retaining the loyalty of at least some of Yemen's military. Defence Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed said the armed forces would counter any plots against "constitutional legitimacy" and "democracy".