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Dozens killed in Yemen car bombing

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Two children are among the dead
  • At least 24 people died when a bomb exploded at a religious celebration
  • The government blames al Qaeda's local branch, a journalist says
  • Yemen has become a key al Qaeda battleground

(CNN) -- At least 24 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in northern Yemen Wednesday, in an attack which the government blames on the local branch of al Qaeda, a local journalist told CNN.

Two children were among the dead, and an additional four people were hurt, Yemen Post editor in chief Hakim Almasmari said.

The car drove through a Shiite Muslim religious celebration being held by members of the Houthi group in Jawf province, he said.

Almasmari said he had spoken to government officials who blamed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni wing of the network calls itself.

The officials declined to be named, he said, saying they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Almasmari said AQAP recently said the procession was a legitimate target for attack.

Yemen has become a key al Qaeda battleground and planning center in recent years.

AQAP claimed its was behind an October plot to ship bombs disguised as printer toner cartridges on cargo planes.

The group publishes a magazine called Inspire, where the claim was published this month.

Intelligence officials believe Samir Khan, an American citizen now living in Yemen, is the driving force behind Inspire.

American-born radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is also thought to be based in Yemen. He's been linked to the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and to an attempt to bomb a plane bound for Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas day last year.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.