A powerful suicide bomb attack on Shiite militia fighters in central Yemen left dozens of people dead on Wednesday, military and tribal sources said.
Yemen has been rocked by fresh instability since the Shiite fighters, known as Huthis, seized control of the capital Sanaa in September.
The Huthis have since been expanding their presence throughout the Arabian Peninsula nation but are facing fierce resistance from local Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda’s powerful Yemeni branch.
Wednesday’s blast hit a large gathering of Huthis at the residence of a local tribal chief in Rada, a mixed Shiite-Sunni town that has seen heavy fighting, military and tribal sources said.
The explosion was the heaviest to hit Rada since the Huthis took over parts of the town last month, the military source said, adding that it was carried out by a suicide car bomber.
Residents said the dawn bombing was felt across the whole town.
Both the military and tribal sources said dozens were killed, but a more accurate toll was not immediately available.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
At least 26 more Huthis were killed in attacks that targeted them in several areas around Rada since early Tuesday, tribal sources said, giving a toll that AFP could not immediately confirm.
Al-Qaeda claimed twin attacks at the weekend that it said killed dozens of Huthi fighters in Rada.
The rise of the Huthis has challenged the authority of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, an ally of the United States, and violence has continued despite UN-backed efforts to find a political solution.
The instability in Yemen, which lies next to key shipping routes from the Suez Canal to the Gulf, stems from the 2012 overthrow of longtime strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been accused of backing the Huthis.
Saleh is a member of the Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which the Huthis belong.
Washington on Monday hit Saleh and two Huthi commanders with sanctions, accusing them of “engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen.”
The UN Security Council previously approved sanctions against the three men.
– Drone strike kills Qaeda militants –
A new cabinet, including members considered close to the Huthis, was sworn in Sunday in a bid to resolve Yemen’s political crisis, despite calls for a boycott from both Saleh and the Shiite militia.
But authorities have made no move to tackle the militia in Sanaa or to impose order in other parts of the country.
Yemen is an important US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda. The group’s Yemeni branch is considered one of its deadliest and has organised attacks against Western targets.
A suspected US drone strike killed seven Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen’s south Wednesday, the defence ministry and tribal sources said, the latest in a series of raids against the extremist network.
The militants were hit while gathered “under a group of trees” in Azzan village in the southern province of Shabwa, a tribal source said.
The defence ministry said in a brief statement on its website that seven Al-Qaeda militants were killed in an air raid Wednesday in Azzan.
“Those killed were planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Azzan using a bomb-laden vehicle,” it said, without confirming the strike was carried out by a US drone.
Drone strikes against Al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen have intensified this month, with at least 20 militants killed in raids by unmanned aircraft in the central province of Baida on November 3.
The United States is the only country operating drones over Yemen, but US officials rarely confirm individual strikes.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has announced the deaths of two top commanders, Shawki al-Baadani and Nabil al-Dahab, in such raids.