A suicide bomber killed 63 people and wounded 182 in an attack on a packed wedding reception in the Afghan capital on Saturday night, the interior ministry said, as violence shows no sign of easing despite hopes for a deal on a U.S. troop withdrawal.
The attack came as the Taliban and the United States are trying to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government.
The Taliban denied responsibility for the blast at a west Kabul wedding hall, in a minority Shi’ite neighborhood, packed with people celebrating a marriage.
Women and children were among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday.
The blast follows a bomb attack on a mosque in Pakistan on Friday that killed a brother of Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. No one claimed responsibility for that blast, which killed four people and wounded about 20.
Pictures posted on social media showed bodies strewn amid overturned table and chairs at the wedding hall, with dark blood stains on the carpet. The bomber struck the men’s reception area, officials said.
“Everybody was running,” a waiter at the hall, Sayed Agha Shah, said after the blast.
“Several of our waiters were killed and wounded.”
Resident Mohammad Hasan rushed to the scene after the blast rocked the neighborhood.
“I saw many women and children screaming and crying,” he said.
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.
At least 40 people were killed in an explosion at a wedding hall in Kabul in November.
Two Taliban spokesman issued statements to deny responsibility for the Saturday night blast.
Islamic State militants also operate in Afghanistan and have carried out bloody attacks in towns and cities, some aimed at members of the Shi’ite minority.