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

Yemen's anti-Houthi attack took place in the mainly Sunni city of Ibb, which has been recently captured by the Shiite militia
A view of the site where a bomber blew himself up in Yemen's Ibb on 31 December, 2014 (AA)

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 Thursday.

Medics told AFP that 49 people were killed and 70 wounded in Wednesday's attack carried out 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 in Wednesday's attack 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," added Jeff Rathke, the spokesman.

The Houthis overran the capital Sanaa in September and have since advanced into mainly Sunni districts such as Ibb.

The US slapped sanctions on former president Saleh – also a former US ally - in November for allegedly seeking to derail the country's moves towards democracy by supporting the Houthi militant advance.

Observers warn that the militant Houthi takeover of cities and institutions is fuelling sectarian backlash, which groups like al-Qaeda seek to capitalise on.

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