Yemen: top generals defect to join anti-regime protests
Tanks were deployed in the Yemeni capital on March 21 as top generals pledged allegiance to the "revolution." Tanks took up positions in key locations across Sanaa including at the presidential palace, the central bank and the ministry of defense, but it is unclear what their orders are or who is in command. Ge. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the Northwest Military District, announced: "The crisis is getting more complicated and it's pushing the country towards violence and civil war. According to what I'm feeling, and according to the feelings of my partner commanders and soldiers... I announce our support and our peaceful backing to the youth revolution."
Two other top generals, Nasser Ali Shuaybi in Hadramawt province and Faisal Rajab in the southern province of Lahij, also switched sides—as did an important tribal leader. Sadiq al-Ahmar, who leads the Hashid tribal federation—Yemen's largest—told AlJazeera: "I announce in the name of all the members of my tribe that I am joining the revolution." He called for Saleh "to exempt Yemen from the bloodshed and make a quiet exit."
Meanwhile, 20 people were killed in fighting over a north Yemen military site between Zaidi Shi'ite rebels, government troops and their tribal allies. Military sources said the fighting was for control of a strategic military installation at the entrance to the northern province of al-Jawf, which the rebels, also known as Huthis, have taken over. Rebels claimed to have show down a military aircraft, killing the pilot. (Middle East Online, March 21)