ISIS claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.
The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States 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.
ISIS 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 US special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the attack showed the need to accelerate efforts to reach a deal with the Taliban, to help defeat ISIS.
The Sunni Muslim 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 neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of “infidels”.
ISIS has claimed some of the most bloody attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, with some aimed at the Shiite minority.
The Taliban had earlier denied responsibility for the blast 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 grieving 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 tables and chairs, with dark blood stains on the wedding hall carpet.
Both the bride and groom survived.
“I won’t ever be able to forget this, however much I try,” the groom, Mirwais Elmi, told the TOLOnews channel.
He said his cousin and some friends had been killed.
The bride’s father told TOLOnews that 14 members of his family were killed.