In the wake of a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters on Friday which left over 40 people dead, key Yemeni generals switched their allegiance to the reform movement today. The move may indicate that the military’s backing of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is wavering. Another important figure in Yemeni politics, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, a leader of one of the critical tribes in the country, threw his support behind opposition groups as well. These defections came despite President Saleh’s firing of his entire cabinet Sunday. The deaths of protesters have rocked the country and seem to indicated the clock is ticking on Saleh’s tenuous 33-year reign as President.
More violence rocked the Middle East today as an anti-regime protest in Yemen turned deadly. Approximately 30 protesters died in a large anti-government rally in the Yemeni capital of Sana as security forces and pro-government groups shot into a crowd. Yemeni protesters are calling for the immediate ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh, in turn, has offered to step down after his term ends in 2013 along with transferring some of his power to parliament. The opposition has rejected these concessions as hollow rhetoric and empty promises.
A referendum will determine a new Yemeni constitution that promises to guarantee the separation of executive and legislative powers. Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh announced the proposed reform that would move the country closer to parlimentary – rather than its current autocratic – rule. But opposition groups have apparently rejected Saleh’s overtures, holding firm to their demand that he relinquish power immediately. Saleh insists that he will finish his term as president in 2013. Like many countries in the Middle East, anti-regime protests have rocked Yemen over the last month.
Several news sources are reporting on the recent wave of bombing attempts. On Friday, two cargo planes were grounded at East Midlands Airport, in Nottingham, north of London, and at a courier facility in Dubai. A package containing explosives found in the UK was on board a UPS cargo aircraft, while another, in Dubai, was found in a FedEx sorting facility. U.S authorities are heightening security, and Yemeni President Ali Abudullah Saleh again reiterated his government’s commitment to fight terrorism, but reminded the international community that Yemen “will not allow anyone to intervene in its affairs.”