Monday, 16 September, 2019

Over 70 injured as blasts, rocket attack mar Afghanistan's independence celebrations

An Afghan woman who has lost his husband and two sons grieves at the door of the hospital after a bomber attacked a wedding in Kabul An Afghan woman who has lost his husband and two sons grieves at the door of the hospital after a bomber attacked a wedding in Kabul Credit Rex
Patty Aguilar | 21 August, 2019, 20:13

IS also shared a photo of the alleged suicide bomber.

The shoes of victims in the Kabul wedding hall, damaged after the blast.

And it deepened questions about the Trump administration's plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by striking a peace deal with one religion-based militant group - the Taliban - even as other extremists such as Islamic State continue to kill large numbers of civilians.

In a congratulatory message on the 100th anniversary of Afghanistan's independence, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Kabul bombing "an attack against humanity".

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 Islamic State. The ISIS affiliate's claim of the wedding attack said it was carried out by a Pakistani fighter seeking martyrdom.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has led the US side in peace talks with the Taliban since previous year, tweeted Sunday that it was time to step up efforts to end fighting.

Some 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan security forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that both sides were "looking to make a deal - if possible".

"The government has failed to secure our lives", said Sattar, who lost six members of his family in the blast. "May God protect us". The incident also brings up questions like, why was there not any security force present when the previous blast occurred on the same road as the blast that took place at the wedding event or why the event was allowed to take place in that vicinity? "It was like a nightmare".

Afghans carry the body of a victim of the Dubai City wedding hall bombing during a mass funeral in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug.18, 2019.

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The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a wedding hall, in a minority Shi'ite neighbourhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels". He and his bride survived the blast.

The Islamic State affiliate appeared in Afghanistan shortly after the group's core fighters swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014, carving out a self-styled caliphate, or Islamic empire, in around a third of both countries. The year before, the group bombed a Hazara-led protest, leaving more than 80 dead and hundreds wounded. Following the wedding blast, President Ashraf Ghani took to social media to condemn the attack and blamed the extremist organisation Taliban for the disgraced attack. This year has seen a surge in deaths and injuries caused by pro-government forces, largely because of US airstrikes, the United Nations has found.

In the northern province of Balkh, 11 civilians were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb blew up their van, police said.

Many outraged Afghans ask whether an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end almost 18 years of fighting will bring peace to long-suffering civilians.

The Taliban condemned the bombing.

There are concerns among Afghan officials and USA national security aides about the talks with fears Afghanistan could plunge into a new civil war that could see a return of Taliban rule and global militants finding a sanctuary. "As it happened, the United States" self-assurance of clinching the peace deal with Taliban seems to have weakened. Afghanistan's government has been sidelined in those talks as the Taliban refuse to negotiate with what it calls a US puppet.

Experts say those talks could collapse or drag on for years, threatening the durability of the Afghan army and further emboldening militants.

The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the United States and the Taleban that would see the U.S. begin to draw down its troop presence.

Meanwhile, ISIS has been fighting with the Afghan Taliban for territory and influence.

Many Afghans see little distinction between the Taliban and Islamic State.

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