Death toll from weekend Kabul wedding attack now 80


Photo: An Afghan worker is seen at the wedding hall after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2019. (Photo: VCG)

The death toll from an Islamic State attack on a Kabul wedding at the weekend has reached at least 80, an official said Wednesday, as the Afghan capital still reels from the deadliest blast in more than a year.

A suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall in west Kabul Saturday as celebrations were in full swing.

Authorities said the initial death toll was at least 63, with more than 180 people wounded.

"The death toll has now risen to 80," interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP.

"Some injured people with critical wounds who were taken to hospital have lost their lives." 

It was Kabul's deadliest attack since January 2018 when the Taliban packed an ambulance with explosives and detonated it in a crowded street -- killing 103 people, according to an official toll.

The blast was so powerful that it blew much of the roof off the massive wedding hall, where hundreds of guests had gathered.

Saturday's attack on the mainly Shia wedding was claimed by IS, the hardline Sunni jihadists with a growing footprint in parts of Afghanistan. 

Among the dead was a musician who had been performing on a stage near the blast.

The bloodshed comes as the US and the Taliban continue to seek an agreement that would see the US reduce its troop presence after nearly 18 years of war in return for the insurgents providing security guarantees.

But Saturday's explosion highlights how easy it is for a rogue actor to mount an attack, and how difficult it would be for the Taliban to honour any guarantee.

On Tuesday, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US peace envoy for Afghanistan, said he was ready to resume a new round of talks with the Taliban as he headed back to Qatar on a mission to end America's longest war.

The State Department said he will then head to Afghanistan, where he plans to help prepare the ground for planned talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.