Dozens killed during wedding celebrations in Afghanistan

The group immediately distanced themselves from the attack and strongly condemned it.

Wedding hall workers inspect the scene after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 18, 2019.

IS has claimed some of the most bloody attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, with some aimed at the Shia minority. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban for planting the device. Top issues include a USA troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks.

An injured Afghan man lies on a stretcher en route to an Italian aid hospital after a vehicle bomb attack in Kabul on July 1, 2019.

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.

Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children.

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"My family, my bride are in shock, they can not even speak".

Officials say at least 63 died - the bride and groom survived - but relatives think the death toll may be higher. "I will never see happiness in my life again".

"I can't go to the funerals, I feel very weak", Alani was quoted by NBC as saying.

"I am not a groom today, my family, my friends are all in grief", Elmi, who is in his early 20s and works as a tailor, said. One of the wounded, Mohammad Toofan, said that "a lot of guests were martyred".

"Everyone ran outside shouting and crying", he told AFP news agency.

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A waiter at the hall, Sayed Agha Shah, said "everybody was running" after the blast. The explosion took place just before dinner was to be served to the almost 1,000 guests who had gathered in the southwest of the city.

The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Senior health official Fahim Bashari said at least 66 people were wounded, including 20 children enjoying the public holiday.

Despite the negotiations, the Taliban has continued to engage in attacks.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened in an area largely populated by Shia Muslims.

A source in Afghan intelligence told the BBC that Hibatullah Akhundzada had been due to attend prayers at the mosque and was probably the intended target.

In their almost yearlong negotiations with the US, the Taliban want the approximately 20,000 USA and allied forces to withdraw from the country.

"Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living overseas, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely", he told Arab News.

The U.S. envoy in the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Sunday that the peace process must be accelerated, including holding talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government and other Afghans.

Trump has made no secret of his desire for a US pullout from Afghanistan and an end to America's longest war.

A potential agreement would see the USA withdrawal of approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.

The Taliban would also begin negotiations with an Afghan delegation on a framework for peace including an eventual ceasefire.

  • Sonia Alvarado