SANAA, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Around 10,000 Yemeni officers and soldiers of the Republican Guard, Central Security and Air Forces defected on Wednesday from the government to join protesters demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's immediate step down, an army official told Xinhua.
"More than 10,000 officers and soldiers of the Republican Guard, Central Security and Air Forces arrived on Wednesday at the headquarters of the 1st army Armored Division in the capital Sanaa and met with the division's commander General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, " the official told Xinhua, requesting anonymity.
"They declared in front of commander al-Ahmar their defection from Saleh's government and the joining to the youth-led protesters, vowing to support and protect the peaceful revolution of the youths," the official said.
Earlier the day, another army official told Xinhua that a soldier and an officer of al-Ahmar's army division were killed in an overnight attack by pro-Saleh security forces in Sanaa. He said the army troops also gunned down four of those assailants.
State Saba news agency late on Wednesday quoted an official of the Defense Ministry as saying that the defected troops of the 1st Armored Division began to attack the pro-government security forces, accusing the defected army unit of planning to stirring up sedition.
Al-Ahmar, the head of the 1st Armored Division and commander of the Northwest Military Area, is the half brother of President Saleh. He defected from the government to join the protesters after the shootings against protesters in Sanaa on March 18.
On Tuesday, al-Ahmar voiced support for a plan by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that proposed Saleh to hand power to his deputy and acquire immunity from prosecution.
Yemen has witnessed anti-government protests demanding an immediate end to the 33-year rule of Saleh since mid February. The political crisis resulted in the deterioration of security and stability of the country after the government pulled the police out from some towns of major provinces under the pretext of avoiding friction with protesters.
The president on March 28 admitted that he has lost control over five provinces, which were seized either by tribesmen or by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).