63 killed as suicide bomber strikes at Kabul wedding

Tuesday 20th August 2019 15:41 EDT

Kabul: At least 63 people were killed and over 200 injured when a suicide bomber detonated his bomb at a marriage reception in Kabul. The blast underlines the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States. The local affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement with an image of a young man with an assault rifle. The extremist Sunni militia described the man as a Pakistani named Abu Asim who had attacked a gathering of “rejecter polytheists,” as the group describes followers of Shiite Islam. IS fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and US led international forces and the Taliban.

A man posing as a guest detonated his bomb in the men's section of the wedding hall. “There was a huge boom and the hall went dark. People were running and falling in all corners. It was like doomsday,” said Sakhi Mohammed, a guest. The bride and groom survived the blast but lost family members, including 14 on the bride’s side. The groom, a tailor in his 20s named Mirwais Elmi, told that his family was in shock and would never recover. Families thronged to Kabul’s crowded cemeteries. “We want peace, not such brutal suicide attacks,” said Ahmad Khan, who was burying a relative.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and said that despite the Taliban's denials of responsibility, it still shared some of the blame because it "provides a platform for terrorists. My top priority for now is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack," Ghani said on Twitter. He added that in response to the attack, he had "called an extraordinary security meeting to review and prevent such security lapses."

Ghani's statement came as Afghanistan on August 19 celebrates the 100th anniversary of independence from the British. "We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood," Ghani declared. The attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan’s US-backed government. The US special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the attack showed the need to accelerate efforts to reach a deal with the Taliban, to help defeat Islamic State.

President Trump has made no secret of his desire for a US pullout from Afghanistan and an end to America's longest war. 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 international militants, including IS, finding a refuge. Afghan officials also fear a Taliban pact could drive some die-hard fighters into the arms of IS.

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