By Abdul Qadir Sediqi
KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed 63 people and wounded 182 in an attack on a wedding reception in the Afghan capital on Saturday night, the interior ministry said.
The Taliban denied responsibility for the blast at a west Kabul wedding hall, in a minority Shi’ite neighbourhood, packed with people celebrating a marriage.
Women and children were among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday.
The attack came as the Taliban and the United States are trying to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with the U.S.-backed government.
It 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. 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.”
Wedding halls have become a big business in Kabul as the Afghan economy slowly picks up and families spend more on celebrations.
At least 40 people were killed in an explosion at a wedding hall in Kabul in November.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Robert Birsel and Richard Borsuk)