CAIRO, Egypt – Yemen’s beleaguered president sacked his Cabinet, state media reported Sunday, as many ministers prepared to abandon him in protest over recent attacks on unarmed protesters by his security forces and supporters.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s representative to the United Nations, the chief of the state-run television channel, key members of his own tribe and three prominent Cabinet members had already announced their resignations.
“It was suspected that his whole Cabinet would resign,” said Murad Al-Azzani, a political analyst at Sana’a University. “Those opposing his rule are not likely to accept any kind of concessions from him at this late stage.”
Few have accepted Saleh’s denials that government forces were involved in the bloody attack Friday that left about 50 people dead and hundreds injured at a long-running sit-in near Sana’a University. Tens of thousands of people were gathered there to call for his ouster when the attacks took place.
On Sunday, protesters carried some of the dead back to the sit-in site for funeral prayers, and thousands chanted anti-government slogans in unison.
“What was their sin?” said Jameel Dhafran, a 23-year-old student. “These young men were killed in cold blood by a regime that has no decency or honor. We will continue, always peacefully, until this government falls.”
On the city’s periphery, Saleh placed dozens of tanks to guard the city against “armed groups,” a thinly veiled reference to Yemen’s heavily armed tribes.
The tribes have so far joined the youth movement to press peaceful resistance. In the country’s restive east, the tribes reportedly moved against Saleh by cutting a major oil pipeline, leading to widespread blackouts in the capital.
Meanwhile in Syria, a nascent opposition movement surged forward Sunday in what appeared to be the biggest challenge to the ruling party since it seized power nearly half a century ago.
Thousands rallied in the southwestern city of Dara to demand an end to 48 years of emergency law. “We are a people infatuated with freedom,” marchers chanted, Reuters reported.
Security forces fired tear gas at the protesters and 40 people were taken to be treated for gas inhalation, residents said.