President Saleh's position in Yemen was looking extremely precarious on Sunday amid signs that the military is beginning to turn against him.
The Associated Press reported that a brigade of the Republican Guard (commanded by Saleh's son, Ahmed) has defected to the opposition.
Meanwhile, posts on Twitter said Yemen's Military Council has issued a statement attacking Saleh. The council is apparently not in direct command of troops but its stance may have some influence on other sections of the army.
One of the top brass, General Abdullah Ali Elaiwah, reportedly accused the regime of misconduct in "handing over certain governorates to rogue elements". He also reportedly claimed that several of the regime's most senior politicians – the vice-president, the prime minister, two former prime ministers and the foreign minister – have advised Saleh to quit.
If that is true, it's hard to see Saleh surviving in office for more than a few days.
The military seem to be especially angry about the southern town of Zinjibar being taken over by militants who are alleged to be linked to al-Qaeda. They claim that Saleh deliberately allowed this to happen, presumably to reinforce his prediction that the same will happen to the rest of the country if he leaves. If that was the president's ploy, it seems to have backfired badly.
The military's claim is supported independently by a report from CNN which says that security forces "abandoned" Zinjibar without resisting the militants.
A resident quoted by CNN said: "They [the militants] suddenly arrived and in large numbers. There were no clashes when they arrived on Friday night. We tried to complain to security forces but could not find them."
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 29 May 2011