Aug. 18 (UPI) — Afghanistan officials believe dozens are dead after an explosion rocked a crowded wedding hall west of the country’s capital of Kabul on Saturday evening.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said the explosion happened about 10:40 p.m. local time, where guests celebrated the wedding of an Afghan couple. While officials have not given official attendance or death figures, local media said such weddings can be attended by more than 400 people.
One official told the New York Times that the death toll could reach 40 people with more than 100 injured. One report blamed the incident on a suicide bomber inside the wedding hall near the stage.
“The explosion was huge,” Muhibullah Zeer, a Health Ministry official, said. “We are busy with collecting the data and shifting the wounded to hospitals. We don’t know how many were killed and how many were wounded.”
The largely Shiite Muslim-populated neighborhood where the wedding hall is located has seen its share of suicide bombings, including soft targets like mosques and education centers. Many of those have been carried out by the Islamic State, which is Sunni-backed.
The attacks also come as the U.S. and Sunni fundamentalist Taliban continue to hammer out a possible peace deal that will lead to troops leaving Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban agreeing not to allow its country to be used as a base for terrorist organizations.
Many Afghans have remained skeptical of negotiations because the Taliban has refused to meet with the current Afghan government, calling it puppets of the United States.