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November 21, 2018

43 die as suicide bomber targets clerics in Kabul

AFP
November 21, 2018

KABUL: At least 43 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a meeting of top clerics in Kabul on Tuesday, officials said, in one of the deadliest attacks to strike Afghanistan this year.

It follows a wave of bloody violence across the war-torn country in recent weeks that has killed hundreds of people as militants step up assaults amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to end the 17-year conflict.

At least 83 people were wounded in the blast, health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said, which targeted religious leaders inside a wedding hall where hundreds had gathered to mark the Prophet Mohammad´s (PBUH) birthday. At least 24 are in a critical condition.

A photo posted on WhatsApp purportedly of the function room showed blood splattered bodies, some with the clothes partially ripped off by the force of the blast, overturned chairs and broken glass strewn over the floor. "The suicide bomber detonated himself inside the hall during a ceremony involving religious scholars," Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid said, confirming the casualty toll.

Italian NGO Emergency said on Twitter a dozen wounded had been taken to its trauma facility in Kabul, all of them "seriously wounded". A manager of Uranus Wedding Palace, which also hosts political and religious functions, said the suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the gathering of around 1,000 people. "There are a lot of casualties -- I myself have counted 30 casualties," he said on the condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but the Islamic State group has claimed most recent suicide attacks in Kabul, which has become the most dangerous place in the country for civilians.

The latest attack comes as the Taliban intensifies pressure on Afghan security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts to convince the group to engage in peace talks.