Daesh has claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing at a wedding hall in Kabul that left more than 60 people dead and more than 180 injured. More than 1,000 people were believed to be inside the building.
Afghan officials said nearly 200 people were wounded in the blast on Saturday night. It happened at the Dubai City wedding hall, in a western neighbourhood of Afghanistan’s capital that is home to many in the minority Shia Hazara community.
A statement by the militant group posted on an Isis-linked website on Sunday said the attack was carried out by a Pakistani Isis fighter. The statement claimed that a car bomb was also detonated after the suicide bombing. Isis has claimed responsibility for many deadly attacks against the Hazara community since the militant group emerged in Afghanistan in 2014.
Survivors say the bomber was standing by a stage where children and others had gathered when he detonated his explosives vest.
The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later. The attack “changed my happiness to sorrow”, the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told local TV station Tolo News. “My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting,” he said.
“I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again.”
Mohammad Farhag, who had also been at the wedding, said he had been in the women’s section when he heard a huge blast in the men’s area. “Everyone ran outside shouting and crying,” he said.
“For about 20 minutes the hall was full of smoke. Almost everyone in the men’s section is either dead or wounded.”
Two hours after the blast, he said bodies were still being removed from the hall.
The Taliban condemned the attack as “forbidden and unjustifiable” and denied any involvement.
Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said on Sunday the Taliban could not escape blame for the “barbaric” suicide bomb attack. “The Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame for they provide a platform for terrorists,” Ghani said in a post on Twitter.
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 on Twitter.
Wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber set off explosives at a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.
The latest attack came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, as Kabul residents were visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday.
The blast comes at an uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war.
The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Seddiqi said earlier on Saturday that his government was waiting to hear the outcome of President Donald Trump’s meeting on Friday with his national security team about the negotiations. Top issues include the withdrawal of US troops 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.
Last year more than 3,800 civilians, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, US and allied forces, the Isis affiliate and other actors, the United Nations said.