Commander Ali Mohsin al-Ahmer has resign from the ruling party defected Yesterday, deploying troops to protect demonstrators.
Friday’s unprecedented violence led eight diplomats and 13 lawmakers to resign.
At Yesterday ‘s demonstration in Sanaa, crowds heaved armed and uniformed security forces onto their shoulders in celebration after Ahmar’s announcement.
But the major general is a polarizing figure in Yemeni politics. He has been a close Saleh ally for years, leading military campaigns in the north against the Shiite Houthi movement, which have thrown their weight behind Yemen’s uprising.
“There are people in this movement that support the Houthis and do not accept Major General al-Ahmar,” says Salah al-Sharaty, a protester from the nearby province of Mahwuit. “They want to prosecute him for the crimes they feel he has committed during the wars in the north.”
Eight ambassadors, 13 lawmakers resign
The military defections come on the heels of a growing number of political resignations from Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress Party in the wake of Friday’s violence, when gunmen opened fire on thousands of demonstrators from rooftops around the demonstration area, killing at least 45.
In the three days since then, at least three acting ministers – including Huda al-Ban, Minister of Human Rights – resigned from the party in protest of the use of force, which many have attributed to Saleh’s regime. At least 13 members of parliament have also resigned from the GPC.
In addition, eight foreign ambassadors, including Abdullah Alsaidi, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations, have quit their posts in response to the violence.
In what many see as a response to the resignations, Saleh dissolved the cabinet on Sunday. The current government is set to remain in place until Saleh is able to form a new cabinet.
While many see the defections as the beginning of the end for Saleh, some demonstrators fear that the sudden influx of high-profile army members could threaten the outcome of the uprising.