In the worst terrorist strike in Afghan capital Kabul in recent months, a Pakistani Islamic State (IS) fighter late on Saturday blew himself up at a hall where a Shia wedding was under way killing 63 people and injuring nearly 200, reports say.
The bombing took place at Shahr-e-Dubai wedding hall around 11.40pm local time when the bride and groom were saying their vows, officials and witnesses said.
The explosion comes as Washington and Taliban are finalising a deal to end a long war with the possible withdrawal of US troops in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Kabul.
It also comes hours ahead of Afghanistan’s 100th Independence Day on Monday and days after the Eid al-Adha celebrations.
The suicide attack occurred in an area where the minority Shiite Hazara community live.
Witnesses said the bomber inflicted maximum casualty by blowing himself up near the stage where musicians were playing and many guests were dancing.
At least some 1,200 guests had been invited for the wedding.
The groom,Mirwais, told a local TV station that he lost his brother, several friends and relatives in the blast. The bride survived but her father, Mohammad Ghulam, said 14 members of their family, including sons and nephews, were killed.
Calling the attack barbaric, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame since they had provided platform for terrorists in the past.
Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described the suicide bombing as a crime against humanity.
US ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass called it an act of extreme depravity.
The Taliban denied any role in the attack.
Survivors reported bodies lying in the hall whose ceiling was partially blown off in the blast.
Afghanistan’s Shia community has been targeted by terrorist groups over the past few years. Such attacks increased especially after the recent rise of Islamic State in Afghanistan.
In November last year, another suicide bomber struck at a hall in Kabul killing some 55 religious scholars and clerics who were celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
Afghan officials and people are not sure whether the Taliban will be able to prevent IS and other terrorist groups from launching attacks after some 14,000 US soldiers leave Afghanistan.
In another incident on Saturday, 11 members of a family were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb in the northern province of Balkh.