SANAA, Yemen — Powerful tribal chiefs in Yemen joined opposition forces demanding the ouster of the country's longtime president in a new sign the embattled leader might be losing his grip on the impoverished, conflict-ridden country.
The defection is a blow to President Ali Abdullah Saleh especially because two of the chiefs abandoning him are from his own tribe, the Hashid, the second largest tribal federation in Yemen.
The two Hashid leaders said in a statement Saturday that they and other tribal leaders support the protests that began two weeks ago and condemn the government's crackdown. The leaders, Hussein al-Ahmar and Mohammad Abdel Illah al-Qadi, also said they have quit the president's ruling party.
Saleh has ruled for 32 years.