Yemen's embattled three-decade ruler, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally in the U.S. war against Al Qaeda militants in that country, is clinging to power amid a wave of high-level official defections to protesters demanding his immediate ouster.
Five top army commanders joined Yemeni diplomats who have defected to the side of protesters, even as Yemen's defense minister said Monday the army stands with Saleh, and will support him against what he called an attempted coup.
The wave of defections came after Saleh fired his cabinet Sunday night, following the killing of 45 protesters in recent days, the New York Times' Laurie Kasinof reports from Sana:
The shift in support by the tribal leader and senior military commanders came amid a stream of resignations by Yemeni officials on Monday, including the mayor of the restive southern city of Aden, a provincial governor and at least one of the country's ambassadors, according to a diplomat at the Yemeni Embassy in Washington who asked not to be identified.
Yemen's ambassadors to Syria and Saudi Arabia also resigned on Monday, according to Al Jazeera, and the ambassador to Japan was reported to have quit as well.
"This is a replicate of the changes that have happened in Egypt," said a high-ranking Yemeni diplomat in Europe who spoke on condition of anonymity. But, he added, "It is too early to see where the shift would lead to."
The military commanders included Gen. Mohamed Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who leads forces in the east, Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsin Saleh, who commands those in the northwest, and three other brigadier generals. They said they declared their support for the protesters after watching the bloody clashes on Friday.
Brigadier General Saleh, in an appearance on Al Jazeera television on Monday, cited the suppression of peaceful protests and said the country was being pushed to the brink of civil war.
Al Jazeera has compiled a running list of officials and generals who have announced a break with Saleh's regime.
(A Yemeni military officer joined protesters demanding the resignation of Yemen's three decade ruler President Ali Abdullah Saleh Monday, but Yemen's Defense Minister said the army would stand with Saleh. Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press.)