Kabul: 63 killed, nearly 200 wounded in blast at wedding


A suicide bomber killed 63 people and wounded 182 in an attack on a packed wedding reception in the Afghan capital on Saturday night, the interior ministry said, as violence shows no sign of easing despite hopes for a deal on a U.S. troop withdrawal.

More than 1,000 people had been invited to the wedding, a witness said.

An Afghan man inspects a damaged wedding hall after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2019.

Meanwhile, in the northern province of Balkh, 11 members of the same family were killed when their auto hit a roadside bomb, officials said.

"Everybody was running", a waiter at the hall, Sayed Agha Shah, told Reuters.

"Several of our waiters were killed or wounded", he added. Resident Mohammad Hasan rushed to the scene after the blast rocked the neighborhood.

It quoted the Afghan interior ministry spokesperson as saying that numerous victims were women and children.

Afghan weddings often include hundreds of guests who gather in large halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children. Big, brightly lit halls now line some suburban streets of the city.

The blast took place inside Shahr-e-Dubai wedding hall in Police District 6 of Kabul yesterday at around 10.40 PM (local time), spokesman Nasrat Rahimi wrote on Twitter.

The emergence of the Islamic State affiliate in recent years might be the greatest threat to Afghan civilians as the USA and Taliban seek an agreement to end almost 18 years of fighting.

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The Afghan interior ministry confirmed the death toll hours after the bombing.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing and the Taliban denied being behind it.

Taliban and USA representatives have been holding peace talks in Qatar's capital, Doha, and both sides have reported progress.

IS has claimed some of the most bloody attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, with some aimed at the Shi'ite minority.

Taliban negotiators were preparing for the next round of talks, hoping to resolve the last outstanding differences, the officials said. On Friday, US President Donald Trump had tweeted on completing a "very good meeting" and that many were "looking to make a deal - if possible".

But there are concerns among Afghan officials and US national security aides that Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and global militants, including IS, finding a refuge.

President Ashraf Ghani said the militants could not escape blame for the "barbaric" attack. The militants have been refusing to negotiate with the Afghan government until a timetable for the U.S. withdrawal is agreed upon.

Some 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan security forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations.

Few believe such a deal will bring quick peace and Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war.