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Hundreds Defect From Yemen Military: Protesters Continue To Call For Saleh To Step Down
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Hundreds Defect From Yemen Military: Protesters Continue to Call for Saleh to Step Down

More than four hundred Yemeni troops have defected to the side of the opposition, declaring that raising their weapons and attacking the unarmed protesting youth of that nation. The troops made their announcement after hours of the protests in the capital city, Sanaa. Those protests were described as peaceful, populated by mostly unarmed youth.. A spokesman for the troops said that they were determined to "stand with the will of the people" which did not include the slaughter of unarmed young people. Other members of the defecting troops declared thatPresident Ali Abdullah Saleh would be forced to stand trial, calling him by name and by the term "butcher" which was echoed in the chants echoing through the protesting crowd.

Activists have gathered in Change Square in Sanaa to protest the government, especially Saleh who has been in power in Yemen for over thirty years. The unarmed, peaceful protesters have been attacked a number of time, with at least a dozen killed in the past thirty days alone. Human rights groups estimate that at least one thousand of the activists have been killed in protest related clashes since the beginning of the year. In addition to protests in Sanaa, a number of other areas are seeing protests as well.

Most of the troops in question were members of the Republican Guards and Central Security Forces headed by President Saleh's son and nephew. Saleh and other members of the government visited the troops to tell them to "stand firm", even if there was a change in power. The opposition has long urged Saleh to step down from power, an action he has been reluctant to take. He has made promises to do so in the past but has always backed out at the last minute. In his speech to the troops, Saleh urged them to protect Yemen, to not allow it to fall, even if changes in power were to be made.

Saleh warned the former members of the troops as well as others in the country to stop attacking the governmental forces or actions would be taken, including harsh and decisive actions. Yemen has been the site of unrest for nearly a year as a growing number of activists, youth and others have banded together to demand that Saleh do as he has so often promised and finally step down from power.

The defecting troops celebrated their decision before joining the military compound of General Mohsen Ahmar, a former member of the government forces in the spring.


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