Death toll of Yemen anti-Houthi bomb blast rises to 49

An initial toll gave at least 33 dead and dozens wounded

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The death toll from a suicide bomb attack on a religious celebration by Shiite militia supporters in central Yemen has risen to 49, hospital sources said on Thursday.

Medics told AFP 49 people were killed and 70 wounded in Wednesday’s attack by a bomber dressed as a woman in the mainly Sunni city of Ibb, held by the Houthi Shiite militia.

An initial toll gave at least 33 dead and dozens wounded.

Yemen has been dogged by instability since an uprising forced longtime strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in 2012, with Houthi rebels and Al-Qaeda seeking to fill the power vacuum.

Among those wounded on Wednesday was Ibb Governor Yahya al-Aryani, who was attending the Houthi commemoration of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, a medic said.

A security source told AFP the bomber had been wearing a woman's black abaya and veil when he detonated his suicide belt.

The United States, allied with Yemen in fighting militants, “strongly condemns” the attack, a State Department spokesman said.

“We will continue to stand with the government of Yemen and the Yemeni people to counter the shared threat posed by violent extremists,” Jeff Rathke added.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the jihadist organization, has pledged to fight the Houthis who overran the capital Sanaa unopposed in September and have since advanced into mainly Sunni districts such as Ibb.

The US slapped sanctions on former president Saleh in November for allegedly supporting the Houthi advance.

It also blacklisted two Shiite rebel commanders, Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim and Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi, "for engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen".

In other developments on Thursday, a protester was shot and wounded during clashes in Aden between police and supporters of independence for southern Yemen, one of their number said.

"One of our people was wounded by gunfire and six others were hospitalized from the effects of tear gas," said militant Yahia Ghaled al-Shuaybi.

Police opened fire and used tear gas during a demonstration against members of the government visiting the city, which had been the capital of the once-independent South Yemen, Shuaybi said.

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