Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh has fired his entire Cabinet amid escalating protests demanding his ouster.
The announcement came after leaders of the president's own tribe joined calls for his resignation, and tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered for funerals of anti-government protesters shot dead by Saleh loyalists on Friday.
The mourners Sunday joined a mass funeral procession in the Yemeni capital for some of the 52 people killed when pro-Saleh gunmen near Sana'a University two days earlier. Yemen's government withdrew armed police from areas near the procession and replaced them with a largely unarmed force in an apparent bid to ease tensions.
Anti-government protestors pray around the bodies of the demonstrators who were killed on Friday's clashes with Yemeni security forces, during their funeral procession in Sanaa,Yemen, March 20, 2011
The head of Saleh's Hashed tribe, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, issued a joint statement with prominent clerics late Saturday, holding the Yemeni president responsible for the killings of the protesters. They demanded that he resign the post he has held for 32 years.
The tribal leader and the clerics praised the youths and other opposition activists who have been calling for Saleh's ouster during more than a month of daily protests in Sana'a and other cities. The statement also urged Yemeni troops to disobey orders to attack the demonstrators.
Saleh declared a nationwide state of emergency Friday, shortly after the deadly crackdown on protesters in Sana'a. The killings drew condemnation from the United States and the United Nations.
The violence also has prompted more government officials to quit. Yemen's Human Rights Minister Huda al-Ban and Yemeni Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Alsaidi resigned Sunday in protest at Friday's shootings. Several other ministers and ruling party lawmakers also have quit in recent days.
Saleh has offered to hold a dialogue with the opposition on a new constitution and promised to step down at the end of his term in 2013. Opposition groups and activists have rejected those gestures.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.