Suicide bomber kills 63 at Kabul wedding

ISIS has reporedly claimed responsibility for the attack

Photo: EPA

Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul this year, officials and witnesses said Sunday.

The massive blast took place on Saturday evening in the men's reception area of the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, in a minority Shia neighbourhood, packed with around 1200 people celebrating a marriage. The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.

"My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting," he told AFP. "I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again."

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later confirmed the death of at least 63 people, with 182 others injured. He also added that many women and children were among the casualties.

Afghan weddings are usually epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children. The targeted wedding on Sunday was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility. Later on, however, Al Jazeera said that The ISIS did claim responsibility for the attack.

The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity.

On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh as he campaigned in presidential elections. The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks.

The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see Washington begin to withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan. The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Saturday's attack, however, suggests any such promise would be tough to keep. In addition, many Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war.

The "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists," Ghani said.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Ghani also strongly condemned the "inhumane attack" and called for an "extraordinary security meeting to review and prevent such security lapses".

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