SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked a ceremony Wednesday hosted by Shiite rebels commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, killing at least 24 people and wounding 48 in a country plagued by militants, authorities said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on a cultural center in the city of Ibb, some 190 kilometers (120 miles) from the capital, Sanaa, though Yemen's local al-Qaida branch has carried out similar attacks in the past. Civilian officials, Shiite rebels, a famed poet and a leader of a political party all died in the attack, which left blood soaking the floor of an auditorium as men wailed to God.
Mohammed Abdel-Baki, the local spokesman for the Houthi rebels, said the governor of Ibb province had been at the event, but wasn't wounded. He described the attack as a "massacre."
"The torn body parts are everywhere. Pools of blood mixed with water. The scene is horrifying," he said. Abdel-Baki said the local hospital in Ibb had 24 corpses from the attack. Yemen's Interior Ministry put the toll at 23 people killed and 48 wounded.
Two other explosions rocked Ibb following the first attack, the Houthis said, but it wasn't clear if they caused casualties.
The Houthis seized large areas of Yemen, including Sanaa, earlier this year as part of a protracted power struggle with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Their critics view them as a proxy for Shiite Iran, charges the rebels deny.
In a brief statement, Hadi vowed to chase the terrorists who carried out the attack, saying: "They will not escape prosecution."
Meanwhile, in the central city of Radda, a security official said series of blasts that targeted Houthi positions killed at least five people. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
The city has been a battleground between al-Qaida fighters and allied tribes and Houthis for the past months before the militant group's withdrawal. The group carries out near-daily attacks on Houthis.