Yemen's Hashid tribal chief Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar (R)
Source: Press TV
A major Yemeni tribe has withdrawn its support from embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and joined the anti-government movement in the impoverished Arab nation.
“We emphasize that we are determined to support you just as I said yesterday. We will defend you God willing and will not leave your revolution. This revolution is yours. Anyone who wants to divide us is a liar,” Hashid tribal chief Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar said on Tuesday. The announcement was warmly received by a large crowd of tribesmen.
On Monday, the influential tribal leader called for the departure from power of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "I announce in the name of all the members of my tribe that I am joining the revolution," Ahmar said, calling on Saleh "to exempt Yemen from the bloodshed and make a quiet exit."
The Hashids, from which President Saleh hails, are considered Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation and include nine clans. All Hashid tribesmen have joined opposition protesters and their leader says the revolution in Yemen will be victorious.
Hashid's support for the anti-regime movement has further eroded the public support that Saleh had enjoyed over the last three decades.
Pressure on Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign has increased as other tribes, including Yemen's second largest tribe, the Baqil, have abandoned Yemen's president and joined protesters.
Meanwhile, Yemeni opposition groups have called on anti-government forces to march on the presidential palace in the capital Sana'a on Friday and urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
"Friday will be the 'Friday of the March Forward', with hundreds of thousands of people... We will arrive where you are and we will remove you,” opposition spokesman Mohamed Qahtan said on Wednesday.
Saleh reportedly informed senior Yemeni officials, military commanders and tribal leaders Monday night of his intention to step down by the year's end to prepare for a peaceful transfer of power in Yemen.
The announcement reflected a reversal of his earlier comments in which he had said he would remain in power until the end of his term in 2013.
President Saleh has been in office for more than three decades, with several opposition members arguing that his long-promised reforms have not materialized.
There are concerns that intermittent skirmishes between anti-government demonstrators and forces loyal to embattled Ali Abdullah Saleh could eventually spiral out of control and trigger a large-scale violence.