63 killed in suicide attack on wedding ceremony in Afghanistan amid hopes for peace

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — A suicide bomber targeted a wedding in the Afghan capital, killing 63 people and wounding 182, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday, showing no sign of easing violence despite hopes for an agreement on a US troop withdrawal.

The attack on Saturday night came as the Taliban and the United States were trying to negotiate a deal to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s commitment to security and peace talks with the US-backed government.

The Taliban have denied responsibility and condemned the blast in a packed wedding hall in western Kabul in a Shi’ite neighborhood.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said on Sunday that women and children were among the victims. Families and relatives flocked to Kabul’s graves to bury their relatives.

But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday the Taliban could not shirk responsibility for the suicide attack, which he described as “brutal”.

“The Taliban cannot absolve itself of responsibility because it provides a platform for terrorists,” he said on Twitter.

The blast followed an attack on a mosque in Pakistan on Friday that killed the brother of Taliban leader Hibaullah Akhonzada. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, which killed four people and wounded about 20.

Social media pictures from the blast site in Kabul showed bodies lying in the wedding hall.

“I will never forget it no matter how much I try,” the bridegroom survived. “One of his cousins ​​and some of his friends are among the dead.”

“I can’t go to the funerals. I feel very weak,” he said. “I know that this will not be the last suffering for the Afghans.

The bride’s father told Talao News that 14 members of his family were killed.

Wedding halls have become a big business in Kabul as the Afghan economy begins to recover slowly and families spend more on celebrations. Many large, lighted halls pile up on some of the city’s streets and have been targeted by bombers.

At least 40 people were killed in an explosion at a wedding hall in Kabul in November.

Afghanistan is also the scene of Islamic State militants who have previously carried out deadly attacks in cities and towns, some of which have targeted the Shi’ite minority.

– Bloodshed and talks –

Fighting and bombings in the country have not subsided over the past few months despite talks between the Taliban and the United States since late last year.

Eleven civilians were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb hit their van in the northern province of Balkh, police said.

The Taliban have been battling to expel foreign forces and re-establish an Islamic state in the country since the group was ousted from power in October 2001, weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

US and Taliban negotiators said they had made progress after eight rounds of talks since late last year.

But some Afghans are skeptical about these efforts amid the spread of violence.

“Peace with whom? With those who blow up our joys, schools, universities, offices and homes? ”

“Selling this homeland and its people to these killers is disgusting and inhuman. History will not forget that.”

Afghan Taliban officials said on Saturday the killing of the leader’s brother in a bomb attack in Pakistan would not hamper ongoing talks with the United States aimed at withdrawing foreign troops from the country.

They said the group’s negotiators were preparing for what they hoped would be the last round of talks. No date has yet been set for the new round.

US President Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to withdraw from Afghanistan and end his country’s longest-running war. His senior advisers briefed him on Friday on the progress of the negotiations.

The Afghan government did not take part in the talks because of the Taliban’s refusal to deal with it as a puppet of the United States.

But there are deep fears among Afghan officials and aides to the US National Security Council about the negotiations.

Aside from the negotiations, he said the expected deal would include the Taliban providing guarantees that militants would not use Afghanistan as a haven for planning new attacks in return for a US commitment to withdraw from the country.

The Taliban are also expected to pledge to start power-sharing talks with the government and agree a ceasefire.

There are still some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan providing training and advice to Afghan security forces and conducting operations against insurgents in the country.

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