Mon, 23 Sep 2019

Afghan officials say a suicide-bomb blast killed 63 people and wounded 182 more at a wedding hall in Kabul during a reception late on August 17.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest attack in Kabul this year and came as Washington and the Taliban appear to be in the final stages of an agreement to end to a nearly 18-year war in that South Asian country.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Muajahid condemned the bomging through the WhatsApp messaging application, dpa news agency reported.

The attacker set off the explosives near the stage where children had gathered, a witness, Gul Mohammad, told AP.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the blast was caused by a bomb that went off in the men's reception area of the wedding hall on Kabul's west side.

Among the wounded are women and children, Rahimi said.

"Unfortunately, the blast caused civilian casualties," he said.

More than 1,000 people were in attendance, a relative of the groom told AP.

'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.'

The blast took place inside the Dubai City wedding hall in a section of Kabul where many in the minority Shi'ite community feel at ease.

Weddings in Kabul's big wedding halls are considered centers of community life that offer a brief respite from nearly two decades of war.

The explosion came a few days after the Eid al-Adha ended, a Muslim holiday, and just before Afghanistan marks 100 years of independence.

On August 7, a car bomb was detonated in the same part of Kabul as the wedding blast that killed 14 people and wounding 145, mostly women, children, and other civilians.

Afghan security forces were said to have been the intended target.

The wedding bombing also comes with the United States and Taliban reportedly nearing a peace accord to end the nearly two-decade war.

More than 3,800 civilians have been killed or injured during the first six months of this year alone, according to UNAMA.

On August 16, the brother of the Afghan Taliban's leader was killed in Pakistan in a bomb explosion inside a mosque.

Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada was not in the mosque when the bomb went off, but his younger brother, Hafiz Ahmadullah, was among those killed, according to Afghan Islamic Press and Reuters.

'If someone thinks martyring our leaders would stop us from our goal they're living in a fool's paradise,' a senior Taliban leader figure told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location on August 17.

'We are close to our goals," the Taliban figure said, referring to the talks with the United States.

It is the longest conflict in United States' history.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, and Tolo News

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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