A suicide bomber killed at least 63 people and wounded 182 in an attack on a wedding reception in the Afghan capital on Saturday night, the interior ministry said.
August 18, 2019
The Taliban denied responsibility for the blast at a west Kabul wedding hall, in a minority Shia neighbourhood, packed with people celebrating a marriage.
The attack came as the Taliban and US are trying to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with the US-backed government.
It follows a bomb attack on a mosque in Pakistan on Friday that killed a brother of Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada.
No one claimed responsibility for that blast, which killed four people and wounded about 20.
Pictures posted on social media showed bodies strewn amid overturned table and chairs at the wedding hall.
The bombers truck the men’s reception area, officials said.
“Around 1,200 guests were invited to the wedding,” said Ahmad Omid, a survivor who said the gathering was for his father’s cousin.
“I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was lying all around the hall.”
Outside a local hospital, families wailed. “There are so many dead and wounded victims,” Omid said.
The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Hazara community call home, shattered a period of relative calm.
On August 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road in a busy west Kabul neighbourhood, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.
Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centres of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening.
“Devastated by the news of a suicide attack inside a wedding hall in Kabul. A heinous crime against our people; how is it possible to train a human and ask him to go and blow himself (up) inside a wedding?!!” Sediq Seddiqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a Twitter post.
The wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
Saturday night’s explosion came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday.
The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.
The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Seddiqi said earlier Saturday that his government was waiting to hear results of President Donald Trump’s meeting Friday with his national security team about the negotiations. Top issues include a US troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks.
While the Taliban earlier this year pledged to do more to protect civilians, it continues to stage deadly attacks against Afghan security forces and others in what is seen by many as an attempt to strengthen its position at the negotiating table.
The conflict in the country continues to take a horrific toll on civilians. Last year more than 3,800, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the US and allied forces, Taliban, Daesh affiliates and other actors, the United Nations said.
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