Yemeni President Hit by Wave of Military Defections

A top general has sided with the protesters following a violent crackdown on Friday

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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired his Cabinet on Sunday in the face of backlash against his bloody crackdown on protesters two days earlier, but the move appears to have done little to prevent his senior officials in the Yemeni regime, including military commanders, from voicing support for the protesters.

On Monday, Ali Mohsen, a top general and member of Saleh's al-Ahmar tribe (pictured above), announced his "peaceful support for the peaceful revolution of the youth" and added that "repressing peaceful demonstrators in public areas around the country" has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. But Mohsen, who commands a division of the army that has previously dispatched troops to the capital, Sanaa, to break up protests, stopped short of resigning or demanding that Saleh end his three-decade rule, Reuters points out.

In the wake of Mohsen's statement, a host of other officials, military commanders, and public figures--including two other generals, adeputy parliament speaker, an Air Force commander, the governor of the city of Aden, the ambassador to Syria, and a top Yemeni diplomat in Washington--have all reportedly resigned their positions or thrown their support behind the opposition movement.

Tanks have been stationed outside the presidential palace and other key locations in Sanaa following the general's assurance that he would ensure "security and stability in the capital," according to AFP.

Monday's defections aren't the first against Saleh; the country's United Nations envoy and human rights and tourism ministers, along with several ambassadors and members of parliament, have all tendered their resignations in recent days. But the steady drumbeat of breaks with Saleh this morning suggest that the president's support, as CNN's Ben Wedemen put it, is "teetering" and the president himself perhaps "about to fall."

Saleh has already announced that he won't seek reelection in 2013 and offered to draft a new constitution and delegate more powers to parliament, but the protesters want him to relinquish power.

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