Kabul: The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underling the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agree a pact with the US.
The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the US 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.
Islamic State (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.
The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall, in a minority Shi’ite neighbourhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of “infidels".
IS has claimed some of the most bloody attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, with some aimed at the Shi’ite minority.
The Taliban had earlier denied responsibility for the Kabul attack and condemned it.
More than 180 people were wounded with many women and children among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday, as families thronged to Kabul’s crowded cemeteries.
“We want peace, not such brutal suicide attacks," said Ahmad Khan, who was burying a relative.
Pictures on social media from the scene of the blast showed bodies strewn amid overturned table and chairs at the wedding hall, with dark blood stains on the carpet.
Both the bride and groom survived.
“I won’t ever be able to forget this however much I try," the groom, identified as Mirwais, told the TOLOnews channel.
He said his cousin and some friends had been killed.
“I can’t go to the funerals, I feel very weak ... I know that this won’t be the last suffering for Afghans, the suffering will continue."
The bride’s father told TOLOnews 14 members of his family were killed.
Wedding halls have become a big business in Kabul as the Afghan economy slowly picks up and families spend more on celebrations. Big, brightly lit halls now line some suburban streets of the city, and bombers have targeted them before.
At least 40 people were killed in a wedding-hall blast in Kabul in November.