SANAA (Reuters) - A powerful Yemeni general close to President Ali Abdullah Saleh expressed support on Monday for pro-democracy protesters demanding the veteran head of state step down.
"We announce our peaceful support for the peaceful revolution of the youth and their demands and we carry out our duty ... in ensuring security and stability in the capital," General Ali Mohsen said in the message shown on Al Jazeera.
Commander of Yemen's northwest military zone, the general referred to recent resignations of political and military figures but stopped short of announcing his own resignation.
Two other generals, one of then another regional commander, also announced their support for the protesters, according to Al Jazeera.
The president has seen a string of allies break ranks with him in recent days and fired his government on Sunday, as he faced increasing pressure from street protests to step down.
Mourners buried some of the 52 anti-government protesters shot dead by rooftop snipers after Muslim Friday prayers in the Arabian Peninsula state, where tens of thousands of people have protested for weeks against Saleh's three decades-long rule.
Friday's bloodshed prompted Saleh, struggling to preserve his rule, to declare a state of emergency for 30 days that restricts freedom of movement and the right to gather. It also gives police more powers to make arrests.
Western countries are concerned over the unrest because Yemen has been an ally against a resurgent al Qaeda wing which has tried to stage operations outside Yemeni territory against the United States and Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting Mohamed Sudam, additional reporting by Martina Fuchs in Dubai; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Jon Hemming)