At Least Eight Dead As Barrage Of Rockets Hit Kabul

A damaged house is seen after several rockets land at Khair Khana, north west of Kabul on November 21, 2020. A series of loud explosions shook central Kabul on November 21, including several rockets that landed near the heavily fortified Green Zone where many embassies and international firms are based, officials said.
WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

 

At least eight people were killed Saturday when a barrage of rockets struck densely populated parts of Kabul, marking the latest big attack in a wave of violence sweeping the Afghan capital.

The salvo slammed into various parts of central and north Kabul — including in and around the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses embassies and international firms — just before 9:00 am (0430 GMT).

The Iranian embassy said on Twitter that its main building had been hit by rocket fragments after a missile landed on the premises. No one on the compound, located just outside the Green Zone, was wounded.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian blamed the Taliban, saying “terrorists” had fired a total of 23 rockets.

“Based on initial information, eight people were martyred, and 31 others were wounded,” Arian said, noting the final toll would change.

Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz confirmed the same tolls and details.

The Taliban denied responsibility, saying they “do not blindly fire on public places”.

At least one rocket landed in an office inside the Green Zone, but did not explode.

Photos and videos circulating online showed several buildings with damaged walls and windows, including at a large medical complex.

Recent big attacks in Kabul, including two horrific assaults on educational institutions that killed nearly 50 people in recent weeks, follow a familiar pattern in the aftermath, with the Taliban denying any involvement while the Afghan government pins the blame on them or their proxies.

“The rocket attack in Kabul city has nothing to do with the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, using the insurgents’ name for Afghanistan.

The Taliban are under pressure not to attack urban areas, having pledged not to do so under the terms of a US withdrawal deal signed in February.

Any acknowledgement of overt involvement in such incidents could in theory slow the American pull-out, though outgoing US President Donald Trump has made clear he wants US forces out regardless of the situation on the ground.

The Islamic State group claimed the two attacks on educational centres, but Kabul said the Taliban’s ultra-violent Haqqani network was responsible.

– Pompeo heads to Doha –

Taliban and Afghan government negotiators launched peace talks in Doha in September but progress has been slow and violence has raged across Afghanistan regardless.

Officials told AFP on Friday however that a breakthrough was expected to be announced in the coming days, and the US State Department announced late Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would meet negotiators from the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to end “forever wars”, including in Afghanistan, America’s longest-ever conflict, which began with an invasion to dislodge the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

President-elect Joe Biden, in a rare point of agreement with Trump, also advocates winding down the Afghanistan war although analysts believe he will not be as wedded to a quick timetable.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it would soon pull about 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan, speeding up the timeline established in a February agreement between Washington and the Taliban that envisions a full US withdrawal by mid-2021.

In the past six months, the Taliban has carried out 53 suicide attacks and 1,250 explosions that left 1,210 civilians dead and 2,500 wounded, interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said this week.

The interior ministry said two small “sticky bomb” explosions had been reported earlier Saturday morning, including one that hit a police car, killing one policeman and wounding three others.

IS Attack On Kabul University Kills 22


Policemen stand guard at an entrance gate of the Kabul University in Kabul on November 2, 2020. Gunmen stormed Kabul university on November 2 ahead of the opening of an Iranian book fair, firing shots and sending students fleeing, Afghan officials and witnesses said. WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

 

 

At least 22 people were killed when attackers stormed one of Afghanistan’s main universities on Monday, detonating a suicide bomb and spraying classrooms with bullets in a brazen hours-long assault claimed by Islamic State group.

The attack on Kabul University, which came as violence surges across Afghanistan, marked the second time in less than two weeks that an educational institution was targeted in the capital by IS extremists.

Survivors described horrific scenes after a suicide bomber struck inside the campus around 11:00 am (0530 GMT).

Two gunmen then opened fire, officials said, sending hundreds of students fleeing and scrambling over perimeter walls.

Fraidoon Ahmadi, a 23-year-old student, told AFP he was in a university class when gunfire broke out.

“We were very scared and we thought it could be the last day of our lives… boys and girls were shouting, praying and crying for help,” Ahmadi said.

He said he and other students were besieged for more than two hours before being rescued.

Images posted online showed what appeared to be the bodies of slain students lying by desks and chairs.

“They opened fire… all my classmates were lying in blood, either dead or wounded,” one student told a local television channel, adding that he escaped by climbing out a window.

IS said two of its fighters carried out the late morning attack.

“Two Islamic State fighters managed to attack a gathering set up by the Afghan government at the Kabul University for the graduation of judges and investigators after completing a course at the university,” the group’s propaganda arm Amaq said.

“The two fighters targeted the graduates with automatic weapons… then clashed with security forces.”

The Ministry of Public Health said at least 22 people were killed and 22 more wounded. Officials said most of the casualties were students.

– Ghani vows revenge –

It was not immediately clear how the attackers got their weapons into the university, which has security checks.

Officials said an investigation was under way.

Security personnel gesture to onlookers while securing an area near the Kabul University in Kabul on November 2, 2020. WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

 

It took Afghan security forces, supported by US troops, several hours to clear the campus and declare the attack over.

The Taliban said they were not involved, but Vice President Amrullah Saleh blamed the insurgent group and their supporters in Pakistan, even as he acknowledged an intelligence failure.

We “will correct our intelligence failures. But the Talibs, their like minded satanic allies in the next door won’t be ever able to wash their Conscience of this stinking & non justifiable attack on Kbul uni,” Saleh wrote on Twitter.

Afghan authorities routinely accuse Islamabad of backing the Taliban, charges Pakistan denies.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned Monday’s attack what it said was a “despicable” assault on a seat of learning.

At the United Nations, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he “strongly condemns the horrific attack” at the university.

“This appalling attack, the second in 10 days on a school facility in Kabul, is also an assault on the human right to education,” Guterres said in a statement.

In a statement, President Ashraf Ghani vowed to “take revenge for this senseless attack and for any drop of innocent students’ blood spilled today.”

He added that the attack “will not remain without response, we will retaliate.”

Authorities declared Tuesday as a day of national mourning.

– Surging violence –

Several education centres have been attacked over the years by extremist groups such as Islamic State.

Last week at least 24 people, mostly students, were killed in a suicide attack on an educational centre in western Kabul that was claimed by IS.

In 2018, a suicide bomber killed dozens of people, many of them teenagers, in front of Kabul University in an attack also claimed by IS.

NATO in Afghanistan condemned the latest carnage.

“Afghan children & youth need to feel safe going to school. #NATO stands firmly behind all efforts to stop violence,” NATO envoy Stefano Pontecorvo said on Twitter.

Violence has surged in recent weeks despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the government that started in Qatar in September.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy who negotiated a separate deal with the Taliban in February, visited Islamabad on Monday where he met with the head of the Pakistan military to discuss a “way forward for lasting peace in Afghanistan”, officials said.

Talks have so far made little tangible progress.

AFP

Car Bomb Kills At Least 17 In Afghanistan Ahead Of Ceasefire

Afghanistan flag

 

At least 17 people were killed in a car bomb explosion in an Afghan city south of Kabul on Thursday, officials and a medic said, just hours before the scheduled start of a ceasefire.

“Seventeen bodies and 21 wounded people were brought to our hospital,” Sediqullah, a senior doctor at a hospital in the city of Puli Alam in Logar province, told AFP.

The interior ministry confirmed the blast, which occurred ahead of a three-day ceasefire starting Friday between the Taliban and Kabul.

AFP

US Strike Kills Taliban Splinter Commander In Herat

 

A US airstrike killed a Taliban splinter-group commander and several other fighters in the western Afghan province of Herat, Afghan and military sources said Thursday.

The commander, named as Mullah Nangyalay, was killed in Shindand district, close to the border with Iran, said Herat provincial governor’s spokesman Jailani Farhad.

Nangyalay split from the main branch of the Taliban after the 2013 death of founder Mullah Omar and joined a smaller breakaway faction led by a commander known as Mullah Rasool.

READ ALSO: Iran Civil Aviation Boss ‘Certain’ Ukraine Plane Not Hit By Missile

A senior provincial police source said the airstrike had been carried out by a US drone.

A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan confirmed they had launched “a defensive air strike in support of Afghan forces”.

The main Taliban group has been negotiating with Washington for more than a year over the withdrawal of US troops in exchange for security guarantees from the militants that could pave the way to intra-Afghan peace talks.

Over 16,000 Complaints Filed In Afghan Presidential Polls

 

More than 16,000 complaints have been filed to Afghan election authorities over the handling of this year’s presidential polls, officials said Thursday, days after preliminary results put President Ashraf Ghani in place to secure a second term.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced earlier this week that Ghani had won a slim 50.64 percent majority in the September 28 poll.

The final results are expected to be announced in the coming weeks after the complaints have been reviewed.

“(Officials) have 15 days to finalise its investigation into the complaints and release the results to the candidates,” said Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, head of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), adding that 16,500 complaints were received in total.

If the numbers hold following these investigations, the result is enough for Ghani to avoid a run-off, after he easily beat his long-time rival Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who scored 39.52 percent.

According to Shinwari, Abdullah’s team filed around 8,000 complaints to the ECC and Ghani handed in over 3,000, while the rest were submitted by other candidates.

Preliminary results originally due October 19 were repeatedly delayed for what the IEC said were technical issues. Various candidates, particularly Abdullah, alleged fraud.

Observers and candidates have blasted the IEC over its handling of the count and its repeated disregard of the electoral calendar.

The election was meant to be the cleanest yet in Afghanistan’s young democracy.

A German firm supplied biometric machines to stop people from voting more than once.

But allegations of vote stuffing, illegal balloting and other fraud came almost as soon as the polls had closed.

Nearly one million of the initial 2.7 million votes were purged owing to irregularities, meaning the election saw by far the lowest turnout of any Afghan poll.

Ultimately, only 1.8 million votes were counted — a tiny number given Afghanistan’s estimated population of 37 million and a total of 9.6 million registered voters.

Abdullah lost to Ghani in 2014 in a divisive election that saw the US intervene to broker an awkward power-sharing deal between the two rivals.

At Least Seven Killed In Kabul Car Bomb Blast

Security personnel and investigators gather at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on November 13, 2019. STR / AFP

 

At least seven people were killed and seven wounded when a car bomb detonated during Kabul’s busy morning rush hour Wednesday, an interior ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said the bomb had gone off in a neighbourhood which is near the interior ministry and north of Kabul airport.

He said the dead were all civilians. “This is the initial information, more details later,” he added.

A source at the interior ministry said the blast was detonated by a suicide bomber in the car, and that it had targeted a convoy of government vehicles on a main road.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in Kabul, which is one of the deadliest places in the war-torn country for civilians.

The blast came one day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that Kabul would release three high-ranking Taliban prisoners in an apparent prisoner swap with Western hostages who were kidnapped by the insurgents in 2016.

The three Taliban prisoners include Anas Haqqani, who was seized in 2014 and whose older brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani network, a notorious Taliban affiliate.

Ghani did not specify the fate of the Western hostages — an Australian and an American, both professors at the American University in Kabul — and it was not clear when or where they would be freed.

The two, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, were kidnapped in August 2016 from the heart of Kabul.

They later appeared looking haggard in a Taliban hostage video, with the insurgents going on to say that King was in poor health.

Ghani noted in his speech that “their health has been deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists”.

He also did not state when or where the Taliban prisoners would be freed.

But he said that he hoped the decision would help “pave the way” for the start of unofficial direct talks between his government and the Taliban, who have long refused to negotiate with the administration in Kabul.

Direct talks

Over the past year the US and the Taliban had been holding direct talks seeking a deal that would bring the insurgents to the table for peace talks with Kabul, and allow the US to begin withdrawing troops.

But President Donald Trump abruptly ended the negotiations in September, citing continued Taliban violence.

Most experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, and that talks will have to restart again eventually.

Until then, however, civilians continue to pay a disproportionate price in the long-running and brutal war.

Last month, the United Nations released a report saying an “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September this year.

The figures — 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured from July 1 until September 30 — represent a 42 percent increase over the same period last year.

The UN laid most of the blame at the feet of “anti-government elements” such as the Taliban, who have been carrying out an insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.

At Least 20 Wounded, Many Feared Dead In Kabul Wedding Blast

File photo of an explosion in Kabul.

 

At least 20 people were wounded in a blast at a Kabul wedding late Saturday, a local hospital said, while a witness told AFP he had seen many dead bodies at the scene.

The explosion came just as the US and the Taliban are widely expected to sign off on a deal that would see American troops begin to depart Afghanistan in return for various security assurances from the insurgents.

“#Kabul #Afghanistan explosion in a hotel during a wedding party, about 20 patients arrived up to now at our hospital #masscasualty,” the Italian-run Emergency hospital of Kabul said on Twitter.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the blast occurred in a west Kabul wedding hall around 10:40 pm (1810 GMT).

He shared on Facebook photos showing several apparent bodies inside a dining area.

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

Mohammad Farhag, who had been at the wedding, said he had been in the women’s section when he heard a huge blast in the men’s area.

“Everyone ran outside shouting and crying,” he said.

“For about 20 minutes the hall was full of smoke. Almost everyone in the men’s section is either dead or wounded. Now, two hours after the blast, they are still taking bodies out of the hall.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Little Security

Government spokesman Feroz Bashari said the blast was “a clear sign that terrorists can’t see Afghans express happiness.”

“You can’t make them bow by killing them. The perpetrators of tonight’s attack shall be held responsible,” he wrote on Twitter.

Insurgents have periodically struck Afghan weddings, which are seen as easy targets because they frequently lack rigorous security precautions.

On July 12, at least six people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a wedding ceremony in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The Islamic State group, which has a growing footprint in the region, claimed the blast.

Expectations are rising for a deal in which the US would start withdrawing its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan after a two-decade war that has turned into a stalemate.

US President Donald Trump has said since the start of his presidency that he wants troops out of the country where Washington has spent more than $1 trillion on military operations and reconstruction since 2001.

In return for the US departure, the Taliban would commit to various security guarantees, including that the Islamist hardliners who long harboured Al-Qaeda would not allow Afghanistan to once again become a jihadist safe haven.

On Friday, Ahmadullah Azkhundzada, brother of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, was among four people killed in a blast at a mosque in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan, a senior official with the provincial government said.

Taliban Says US ‘Will Be Harmed More Than Anyone’ After Trump Halts Talks

 

The Taliban said the US “will be harmed more than anyone” but left the door open for future negotiations Sunday after President Donald Trump abruptly announced that he had called off year-long talks to end America’s longest war.

“We still… believe that the American side will come back to this position… Our fight for the past 18 years should have proven to the Americans that we will not be satisfied until we witness the complete end of the occupation,” the group said in a statement released on Twitter by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The statement said the insurgents had “finalised” a deal with the US that had been expected to allow Washington to begin withdrawing troops in exchange for security promises from the Taliban.

It added that both sides had been preparing for the deal to be announced and signed when Trump tweeted late Saturday that he had “called off peace negotiations”.

Trump had cited a Taliban attack in Kabul on Thursday which killed 12 people including a US soldier as his reason for calling off the talks, including a secret meeting with the insurgents at Camp David in Maryland planned for this weekend.

But the Taliban dismissed his reasoning in their statement, saying it showed “neither experience nor patience”, and accused the US of killing “hundreds of Afghans” in the fighting.

“Americans will be harmed more than any other,” by Trump’s decision, the statement said, adding that the US’s “credibility will be harmed, their anti-peace stance will become more visible to the world, their casualties and financial losses will increase, and the US role in international political interaction will be discredited even further.”

In Bombshell, Trump Calls Off Secret Summit, Talks With Taliban

US President Donald Trump. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump said he had called off a secret summit with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s leader, abruptly slamming the door on a year of diplomacy to end America’s longest war.

In a Saturday evening bombshell, Trump said that he had planned unprecedented, albeit separate, talks with the two sides Sunday in Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, but that the Taliban’s persistent, grisly violence made them untrustworthy partners.

“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” Trump said in a tweet.

“Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”

“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!” Trump said.

A US soldier and another service member from Romania were killed in the bombing Thursday in Kabul — the latest major attack claimed by the Taliban even as they negotiated with a US envoy on the withdrawal of thousands of troops.

Trump would have met the Taliban at Camp David days before the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which triggered the US invasion that toppled the militants’ regime.

Washington was jolted by the announcement from Trump, who is fond of dramatic gestures but whose Twitter pronouncements have often come into question later.

“Why a lethal attack in Kabul on Thursday would be the reason for calling it off, considering the multiple recent Taliban attacks, is unclear,” said International Crisis Group’s Asia director Laurel Miller, who earlier served as the US special representative on Afghanistan.

Congressman Tom Malinowski, a Democrat who has been pressing for clarity on the US strategy in Afghanistan, called the idea of Taliban leaders at Camp David “weird.”

“But I’m glad the president called off this farce, and hope this good decision sticks,” Malinowski tweeted.

Deal unpopular in Kabul

The announcement appears to abruptly end, at least for now, a painstaking diplomatic process led for nearly a year by Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born veteran US diplomat who held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban, usually in Qatar.

Khalilzad had earlier said that he had reached an agreement “in principle” with the Taliban.

According to parts of the draft deal made public, the Pentagon would pull about 5,000 of the roughly 13,000 US troops from five bases across Afghanistan next year.

The insurgents in turn would renounce Al-Qaeda, promise to fight the Islamic State group and stop jihadists using Afghanistan as a safe haven.

Afghanistan’s internationally recognized president, Ashraf Ghani, had been outspoken in his criticism of the emerging shape of the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, who have refused to negotiate with his government.

“The Afghan government, in relation to the peace, appreciates the sincere efforts of its allies and is committed to working together with the United States and other allies to bring a lasting peace,” said a statement from Ghani’s office Sunday in response to Trump’s announcement.

Question mark on troops

Trump’s announcement draws a fresh question mark on whether the United States will leave Afghanistan anytime soon.

The decision comes weeks before Afghanistan is set to hold elections, an unwieldy exercise even in more stable times. The Afghan government said it “insists” the polls should go ahead in its statement Sunday.

Trump had been uncharacteristically reticent about Afghanistan in recent weeks, with all eyes on whether he would approve a final deal.

Washington had hoped that a withdrawal of US troops would lead to peace negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul.

The Taliban have shown no signs of letting up on violence. Claiming responsibility for Thursday’s bombing in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that a suicide bomber had killed “foreign invaders.”

“Since the Taliban were flexing muscles on the ground, Americans also showed them they have a say politically,” analyst Ahmad Saeedi said — adding that he expects talks to resume again.

Trump has walked away from high-stakes talks before. In February, his aides pressed him not to accept a deal in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — another individual whom it would have long been unthinkable for a US president to meet.

But Trump soon made clear that he wanted to keep talking, calling Kim a friend, and arranged to meet him in June as the US leader visited the Korean peninsula.

Taliban Kill At Least Five People In ‘Horrifying’ Attack In Kabul

 

The Taliban killed at least five people in a fresh bombing in Kabul on Thursday in yet another horrific attack on the Afghan capital as the US and the insurgents negotiate a deal to see American troops leave the country.

The blast shook Shash Darak, a heavily fortified area adjacent to the Green Zone and home to several important complexes including the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence service.

The morning attack was also close to where the Islamic State group killed nine journalists in a blast in April last year, including AFP chief photographer Shah Marai.

Farid Ahmad Karimi, general manager at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital close to the bomb site, told AFP that five bodies and 25 wounded people had been brought into the facility.

“There are both civilians and security personal among dead and wounded. Five of the wounded are women,” Karimi said.

On Twitter, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a “martyrdom seeker” — suicide bomber — had triggered the car bomb.

Massoud Zazai, who owns a photo studio across the street from the blast site, said he was in his shop when the explosion happened.

“I fell off my chair and it got dark inside the shop because of smoke and dust,” Zazai told AFP.

“I went out to the scene moments after the attack, the side of the road was littered with debris and bodies.”

Through the smoke, Zazai said he could hear injured people crying and calling for their mothers and brothers.

“I saw at least five very badly injured, one was covered in blood and not moving. It was horrifying.”

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the blast had been caused by a car bomb at about 10:10 am (0540 GMT).

Growing unease

On Monday, at least 16 people were killed in a Taliban attack on a residential area in east Kabul.

The capital has been gripped by a surge in deadly violence even after the US and the Taliban reached an agreement “in principle” that would see the Pentagon pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan in return for various Taliban security promises.

But there is increasing unease about the deal, with Afghans fearing it will lead to a return of the Taliban to power, and a growing chorus of US lawmakers and officials expressing doubts.

According to parts of the deal made public so far, the Pentagon would pull about 5,000 of its 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year, provided the Taliban hew to their security pledges.

The insurgents have said they will renounce Al-Qaeda, fight the Islamic State group and stop jihadists using Afghanistan as a safe haven.

On Wednesday, the Afghan government expressed doubts about the prospective deal, saying officials need more information about the risks it poses.

Even as negotiations for an accord have entered what are widely considered to be the final stages, violence has surged across Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the Taliban attempted to seize the provincial capital of Kunduz in the north and sporadic fighting has continued on the outskirts all week, while on Sunday, insurgents launched an operation in the city of Pul-e Khumri, the capital of neighbouring Baghlan province.

Deadliest Attacks On Kabul

Bomb Blast In Kabul
Bomb Blast In Kabul

 

Saturday’s suicide attack targeting wedding celebrations in Kabul is one of the deadliest in Afghanistan’s nearly 18-year-old war against the Taliban.

Here is a look at some of the worst incidents in the capital since 2008:

– 2019 –
– August 17: An Islamic State suicide bombing at a packed wedding hall kills at least 80 and wounds more than 100.

– 2018 –
– December 24: An hours-long bomb and gun attack on a Kabul government compound kills at least 43 people. The Taliban denies responsibility.

– November 20: A suicide bomber blows himself up among religious scholars inside a wedding hall in the capital, killing at least 55 people. The attack is unclaimed.

– April 22: An Islamic State bomber kills 57 people, all civilians, outside a voter registration centre amid preparations for legislative elections.

– January 27: An ambulance packed with explosives detonates in a crowded street in the heart of the city, killing 103 people, according to an official toll. The attack, which kills many police officers, is claimed by the Taliban.

– 2017 –
– October 20: A suicide attack during Friday evening prayers at a Kabul Shiite mosque sees 56 people killed and 55 wounded. The IS claims responsibility.

– May 31: More than 150 are killed and 400 wounded when a massive truck bomb rips through the city’s diplomatic quarter during rush hour. The attack, which is not claimed, is the deadliest in the capital since 2001.

– March 8: Gunmen disguised as doctors storm Afghanistan’s largest military hospital in a six-hour attack. The official death toll is 50 but security sources and survivors say it exceeded 100. The attack is claimed by the IS.

– 2016 –
– July 23: Twin explosions rip through crowds of Shiite Hazaras, killing at least 84 people. It marks the first major IS assault on the capital.

– April 19: A truck bomb followed by a shootout leaves 64 people dead and nearly 350 injured in central Kabul in a Taliban-claimed attack.

– 2011 –
– December 6: An attack targeting the Shiite minority on the holy day of Ashura kills 80 people. The Taliban denies responsibility.

– 2008 –
– July 7: 60 people, including two diplomats and two Indian guards are killed in a suicide car bombing on the Indian embassy in the capital. The Taliban say they were not involved.

Numerous attacks have been carried out in the rest of Afghanistan. In the most deadly, 140 people, including more than 50 auxiliary police officers, are killed in the southern city of Kandahar in February 2008.

Suicide Bomber Kills 63 At Wedding In Kabul

Afghan men gather in a wedding hall after a deadly bomb blast in Kabul on August 18, 2019. More than 60 people were killed and scores wounded in an explosion targeting a wedding in the Afghan capital./AFP

 

Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul in months, officials and witnesses said Sunday.

The blast, which took place late Saturday in west Kabul, came as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and hopefully build a roadmap to a ceasefire.

The groom, who only gave his name as Mirwais, recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.

The attack “changed my happiness to sorrow”, Mirwais told local TV station Tolo News.

READ ALSO: Massive Blast Hits Kabul Wedding, At Least 20 Wounded

“My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting,” he said.

“I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again.”

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 63 people had been killed and 182 injured. “Among the wounded are women and children,” Rahimi said. Earlier he stated that the blast was caused by a suicide bomber.

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.

“The wedding guests were dancing and celebrating the party when the blast happened,” recounted Munir Ahmad, 23, who was seriously injured and whose cousin was among the dead.

“Following the explosion, there was total chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying for their loved ones,” he told AFP from his bed in a local hospital, where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.

In the aftermath, images from inside the hall showed blood-stained bodies on the ground along with pieces of flesh and torn clothes, hats, sandals and bottles of mineral water.

The wedding was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility.

Wedding guest Mohammad Farhag told AFP he was in the women’s section when he heard a huge blast in the men’s area.

“Everyone ran outside shouting and crying,” he said.

“For about 20 minutes the hall was full of smoke. Almost everyone in the men’s section is either dead or wounded.”

One guest who spoke to Tolo said some 1,200 people had been invited.

The attack sent a wave of grief through a city grimly accustomed to atrocities. President Ashraf Ghani called the incident a “barbaric attack”, while Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described it as a “crime against humanity”.

– Withdrawal deal expected –
The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan’s security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity.

On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani’s running mate Amrullah Saleh on the first official day of campaigning for presidential elections.

The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks.

The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see America begin to draw down its troop presence.

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. Saturday’s attack suggests any such promise would be tough to keep.

The “Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists,” Ghani said.

Expectations are rising for a deal in which the US would start pulling its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan, but few believe it will bring quick peace to Afghanistan.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban could return to some form of power, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war.

Insurgents have periodically struck Afghan weddings, which are seen as easy targets because they typically lack security precautions.