63 killed, 182 injured in Afghan wedding suicide blast claimed by ISIS

At least 63 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a wedding reception in the Afghan capital Kabul and 180 others were injured in an attack which the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Government spokesman Feroz Bashari said in a statement 63 people, including women and children, were killed on Sunday while 182 more were injured.

The casualty toll was confirmed by Nusrat Rahimi, the Interior Ministry spokesman, as families began to bury the dead.

According to  SITE, ISIS said the wedding bomb attacker had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of “infidels”, which is the terror group’s labeling for the Shi’ite.

Survivors also told the Guardian that the bomber was standing by a stage where musicians were playing and children and adults were dancing and clapping when he detonated his explosives vest.

Sunday’s attack came as the United States and the Taliban say they are nearing an agreement to end their 18-year conflict, America’s longest war.

The negotiations between the two parties are reportedly on the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government, Reuters said.

The ISIS fighters are not involved in the talks and are battling the government and US-led international forces and the Taliban.

The group, which has claimed some of the bloodiest attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, admitted that a Pakistani fighter detonated an explosive vest amid a large gathering of Shia Muslims.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist group activities stated in a report that the terror organization also confessed to a car bombing that came after the initial attack in Kabul later on the same day.

The first bomb exploded inside the Dubai City wedding hall, in a western neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital that is home to many in the minority Shia Hazara community.

Photos of the recent bombing scene circulating on social media showed bodies strewn amid overturned tables and chairs, with dark bloodstains on the wedding hall carpet.

The Taliban, which has been fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish an Islamic state since its ousting weeks after the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001, has denied responsibility for the Kabul attack.

Condemning the wedding bombing on Sunday, Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan President, argued that Taliban shared some of the blame for “providing a platform for terrorists.”

The Taliban previously claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 14 people and injured 145 more at a security checkpoint outside a police station in Kabul on August 7.

“My top priority, for now, is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack,” Ghani said.

He stated that he called an extraordinary security meeting to review and prevent security lapses that lead to such incidents. Celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from Britain which were to take place on Monday were curtailed out of respect for the victims of the blast, the president’s office also noted in a statement.

Presidential Spokesman Sediq Seddiqi expressed his “devastation” by the news of the suicide attack in a tweet.

“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?!!” he questioned.

“Whoever perpetrated, whoever inspired the suicide blast at the Kabul wedding hall, those are enemies of humanity. Such acts are beyond condemnation,” the European Union mission to Afghanistan said in a tweet.

U.S. Ambassador John Bass defined the wedding attack as “an act of extreme depravity” on his official Twitter account on Sunday.

Reuters said that despite talks between the US and the Taliban since late 2018, there has been no let-up in fighting and bomb attacks in Afghanistan in recent months.

Although US President Donald Trump has expressed his desire for a US pullout from Afghanistan, there are concerns among Afghan officials and Washington’s national security aides that Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could trigger the return of Taliban rule.

In November 2018, at least 55 people were killed in a suicide blast at another Kabul wedding hall, where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.

More than 3,800 civilians including more than 900 children were killed in Afghanistan in the conflicts among the Taliban, the US and allied forces, the ISIS affiliate and other actors, the UN said.

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