Scores of Shiite rebels in Yemen known as Houthis were killed when a suicide car bomb blew apart an assembly taking place at the home of a tribal chief in the town of Rada on Wednesday.
Houthi fighters overran the capital of Sanaa with little resistance from security forces in September and reached a peace deal with the political establishment stipulating the formation of a new government. Authorities have so far made little attempt to remove them from the capital.
As the rebels attempt to expand the areas under their control, they are fighting local Sunni tribes and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a branch of the terror group that has promised to defend Sunnis from the Houthis.
The death toll from Wednesday's blast is currently not possible to verify, but dozens were reported killed, adding to the deaths of at least 33 others over the past two days in fighting in central Yemen, as well as of many Houthis who were killed over the weekend in attacks claimed by AQAP.
Yemen has been in various degrees of disarray since the toppling of longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Al Qaeda-led insurgents have launched a string of deadly suicide attacks against security forces. The US has backed President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi's campaign against the extremist militants with drone strikes.
Recent events have raised fears that Yemen could become a failed state, and the international community has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the fighting — an effort that is so far without success. Chaos in Yemen could extend beyond its borders, particularly into Saudi Arabia, whose Sunni leaders are anxiously monitoring the situation.
Also on Wednesday, Yemen's defense ministry said that at least seven al Qaeda militants were killed when a suspected US drone strike hit a base in southern Shabwa province, according to unnamed security officials who spoke to the Associated Press. Tribal sources cited by AFP said that the men were hit in Azzan village while gathered "under a group of trees," but military sources quoted by Reuters said that they were in a truck and on their way to an attack.
American officials announced on Monday that Saleh and two Houthi rebel commanders would be hit with sanctions for "engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen." Saleh has been accused of backing the Houthis.
In an attempt to restore stability to the country, Yemeni lawmakers recently formed a new government that includes members who are close to the Houthi rebels. Saleh and rebel leaders nevertheless called for a government boycott, and the Houthis have shown no sign of relinquishing recently seized territory.
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