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Yemen Republican Guard Unit Defects

National Yemen

Republican Guards near al-Sabain Square

A Yemeni rights activist says a brigade of the powerful Republican Guard run by the son of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh has defected to the opposition in a southern province.

It’s the first reported defection among the elite troops, which have been the core of Saleh’s hold on power despite three months of massive street protests and defections by some military and tribal allies.

Activist Abdul-Rahman Ahmed says a letter from Brig. Gen. Ibrahim al-Jayfi, commander of the Guard’s Ninth Brigade was read to thousands of protesters in the provincial capital of Damar on Sunday.

Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar of the powerful Hashid tribal confederation, whose fighters battled Saleh’s troops for five days last week, has called on the Guard to help topple Saleh. The clashes killed 124 people.

by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS