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Tuesday, May 31, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Defection by key units of Yemen's military facilitates Al Qaida offensive in the South

CAIRO — Yemen's military continues to decline amid the rebellion against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.


Opposition sources said key units of the Western-trained military have either disintegrated or fled to the opposition, Middle East Newsline reported. They said this included units of the Republican Guard under the direct command of Saleh's relatives.

"Stand side by side with the courageous armed forces, Republican Guards and security officers who endorsed the peaceful popular youthful revolution and announced their support to stand up to the tyrants and corrupt, and unjust," Maj. Gen. Abdullah Ali Elewa, a former defense minister, said in a message to the elite force.

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[On May 30, at least 51 people were killed and 1,000 injured as the Presidential Guard, backed by security forces, fired on protesters in the southern city of Taiz. The bloodshed prompted a call by the Yemeni opposition for international intervention.]

The disintegration of the military has facilitated an offensive by Al Qaida. The opposition has reported the Al Qaida capture of the southern coastal city of Zinjibar on May 27, which forced the withdrawal of the army. On May 30, the Yemen Air Force bombed Zinjibar in an effort to dislodge Al Qaida.

Several units of the guard, commanded by Saleh's son, were said to have left their bases in the south of Yemen. On May 29, Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Al Jayfi defected from the Ninth Brigade of the Republican Guard, and later a message by the general was read to a huge protest in the southern city of Damar.

The defection of units from the Republican Guard took place as Saleh has sought to stop the mutiny in the military. The Yemen Air Force has conducted air strikes against tribes identified as harboring the defectors. One target was the Hashid tribe, which included several generals who joined the opposition in March.

"We have to get rid of this regime and be among the makers of the change that the people are calling for," Sadiq Al Ahmar, head of Hashid tribe, said.

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