Sana’a, Mar. 22 — President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned of bloody civil war, if the armed forces failed to unite, following the mass defection of a dozen military commanders.On Monday, senior military leaders announced their solidarity for the protesters and the “peaceful revolution”. Ali Mohsen Saleh Al-Ahmar, a key general and leader of the 1st Armored Division, sent his soldiers to protect the protesters on Monday following the massacre that left 52 dead and hundreds injured after last week’s Friday prayers.
On Tuesday president Saleh addressed the Defense Council calling for unity and loyalty from the army.
“Those who want to climb to the authority chair by coup, don’t think that things will be stable, the country won’t be stable,” said the president in a speech broadcast live on television. “It will turn to a civil war, a bloody war,” he warned.
Despite Saleh’s call to the defected military men to rejoin him, Major General Al-Ahmar confirmed his support for, and protection of, the protesters, who maintain their call for an end to Saleh’s three decade long rule. Al-Ahmar also denied claims his defection was an attempt at a military coup.
“The time of military coups has ended. Now the only way is by demanding rights by modern public ways,” said the Major General. “The armed forces pledge to defend you, the protesters and the country, and we will give our souls to protect the country’s gains and to protect you and we confirm your demands,” added the commander.
In his statement Al-Ahmar criticised Saleh, saying he should stop listening to those who consult him against the people: “We ask them to get back to logic and not to be led after the tiny brains consultants thinking that they own the country. We say to them that people’s will is not invincible,” said Al-Ahmar.
In reaction the president responded in his speech that the armed forces are not owned by anyone and denied accusations by protesters that he was using the army to protect his position.
Saleh called on the military leaders to repent and to leave “the incitement” and to apologize, pointing out that there is constitution and a minority can’t control the country’s destiny.
“Unfortunately what happened yesterday [Monday], those who fell, fell just like autumn leaves. And I say frankly to those officers, most of what they did is only weakness, imitating the media terrorism,” said the defiant president. “That’s why they fell like autumn leaves and they will regret it.”
Amidst a chilling warning Saleh referred to the military defectors saying: “you are walking toward hell.”
Despite the president’s demand for them to remain loyal, the armed forces coalition that joined the protesters stood by their decision.
“We ask him and his sons to deliver themselves to the closest police station,” said Major Ali Al-Masqri, the deputy of the newly formed military coalition. “He has lost his legitimacy and we as the armed forces, we are the servant of the country not for his throne.”
Saleh said that the young protesters are only “victims” of political parties with old agendas: Marxism, Al-Qaeda, and the Houthis.
He went on to claim that members of the protests movement were “victims of old political parties” aiming for power.
“After reaching power they will kill each other,” he said, predicting chaos. “The Islamists won’t accept the communists, nor Nasserites will accept Islamists, or the Houthi’s imamate. No one will accept the other,” he added.
Saleh went on to blame the current unrest on “foreign agendas” conspiring against the military, while also confirming that democratic freedom is guaranteed in Yemen.
Protest organizer, Adel Al-Surabi, denied the president’s claims. “We have made ourselves clear many times before this, we are not led by any political party or foreign agenda. We are independent youth and we are clear when it comes to our demands.”