A suicide bombing apparently targeting Shiite Muslim rebels at a religious commemoration on Wednesday killed at least 33 people and wounded dozens more, security and medical officials said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the blast at a cultural center in the central city of Ibb followed a string of similar attacks on Houthi rebels staged by Yemen’s Al Qaeda affiliate.
Yemen, already torn by unrest, has descended into fierce sectarian fighting since September, when Houthis overran the capital, Sana, and seized chunks of territory elsewhere in the country.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, considered one of the organization’s most dangerous franchises, has repeatedly targeted Houthi bases and commanders, but has been unable to break their grip on the capital. The Houthis, members of the Shiite offshoot Zaydi sect, are viewed as heretics by the Sunni militants of AQAP and its allies.
Another Al Qaeda-linked group had threatened on social media to attack Houthi gatherings in a number of locations, including Sana and Ibb.
At the gathering that came under attack, Houthis were marking an upcoming holiday commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Schoolchildren and political allies were among those attending; the nearly 50 people injured included women and children, as well as the provincial governor. The head of the cultural center was listed as among the dead.
The head of Ibb’s security administration, Col. Mohammed Abdul-Jalil al-Shami, said the bomber had managed to infiltrate the gathering by dressing in garb worn by the rebels, and carried a dagger with the Houthi slogan inscribed on it. It calls for death to Israel and the United States.
Shiite Muslim Iran is accused of fomenting the fighting in Yemen, which lies at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula alongside key shipping lanes. The Houthis deny Iranian patronage, but the upsurge in violence has alarmed neighboring Saudi Arabia, the region’s main Sunni Muslim power.
Ali is a special correspondent. Staff writer Laura King in Cairo contributed to this report.
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