Kabul wedding party suicide bomber ‘set off explosives near children’

Dozens of people are believed to have been killed or wounded after an explosion ripped through the wedding hall.

Afghan police stand guard outside the wedding hall
Afghan police stand guard outside the wedding hall

A witness to a suicide bombing at a wedding party in Afghanistan’s capital said the attacker set off the explosives near the stage where children had gathered.

Gul Mohammad told The Associated Press that everyone gathered there was killed.

Another witness, Mohammad Toofan, said that “a lot of guests were martyred”.

Dozens of people are believed to have been killed or wounded after the explosion ripped through the wedding hall on a busy Saturday night in Kabul, a government official said.

Dozens are feared dead in the blast
Dozens are feared dead in the blast (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

Hundreds of people were believed to be inside the hall.

Interior ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told The Associated Press there was no immediate information on the cause of the blast.

Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group carry out bloody attacks in the city.

“There are so many dead and wounded,” said Ahmad Omid, a survivor who said about 1,200 guests had been invited to the wedding 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.”

Outside a local hospital, families wailed. Others were covered in blood.

The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home, shattered a period of relative calm in the city.

On August 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road in a busy west Kabul neighbourhood, killing 14 people and wounding 145 – most of them women, children and other civilians.

Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centres of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of pounds 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 in a Twitter post.

Afghanistan Wedding Hall Blast
An Afghan man mourns near the body of his brother (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

The wedding halls also serve as meeting places. In November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into 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, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday.

The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.

The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Mr Seddiqi said earlier Saturday that his government was waiting to hear the results of President Donald Trump’s meeting Friday with his national security team about the negotiations.

Top issues include a US troop withdrawal 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.

The conflict continues to take a horrific toll on civilians.

Last year more than 3,800, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, US and allied forces, the Islamic State affiliate and other actors, the United Nations said.

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