Pakistan condemns Kabul explosion after 63 killed in wedding bloodbath 

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Broken windows of a wedding hall is seen after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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Afghan men comfort each other as they mourn during the funeral of their relatives after a suicide bomb blast at a wedding in Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2019. (REUTERS)
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A man is seen through a broken window of a wedding hall after a deadly bomb blast in Kabul on August 18, 2019. More than 60 people were killed and scores wounded in an explosion targeting a wedding in the Afghan capital, authorities said on August 18, the deadliest attack in Kabul in recent months. (AFP)
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Workers inspect a damaged wedding hall after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 August 2019

Pakistan condemns Kabul explosion after 63 killed in wedding bloodbath 

  • The suicide bombing, claimed by Daesh, in a packed wedding hall has been condemned by the Taliban
  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office said terrorism was a common threat for the entire region and must be defeated together

In a statement released by the foreign office on Sunday, Pakistan condemned the ‘inhuman act’ of a suicide bombing claimed by Daesh in a packed hotel wedding hall in western Kabul that killed 63 people and injured almost 200 on Saturday.
Islamabad reiterated its support for Afghanistan’s fight against militancy, at a time when violence in the country shows little signs of easing, and as US and Taliban delegates inch toward signing a peace deal which would eventually lead to the complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan, after nearly 18 years of the group’s ouster by Washington.
“We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of innocent victims... Terrorism is a common threat for the entire region and must be defeated together,” the statement said.
What was supposed to be a special night for Mirwais Elmi soon turned into a bloodbath after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the hotel hall where his wedding ceremony was taking place.
Elmi and his bride – who were in separate areas of the venue – survived the blast which took place just before dinner was to be served to the nearly 1,000 guests who had gathered for the event in the southwestern part of the city.
Speaking to a private TV channel on Sunday, a visibly-shaken and shocked Elmi was unable to describe the carnage that took place.
“I am not a groom today, my family, my friends are all in grief,” Elmi who is in his early 20’s and works as a tailor said, adding that he never thought “that such an incident will happen during my wedding party.”
As survivors buried victims of the attack, an infant’s milk bottle and an invitation card could be seen strewn near one of the hotel’s walls, badly damaged from the blast’s impact.
On Sunday, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on a website called Telegram. The group first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014, and has since claimed many deadly attacks against minority communities in the country.
Earlier, the Taliban distanced themselves from the blast and strongly condemned it.
Elmi’s father-in-law lost 14 members of his family, while another man lost three of his sons, four nephews and five of his aunt’s grandchildren, according to survivor accounts.
“My family, my bride are in shock, they can not speak. My bride keeps fainting. I lost my brother, i lost my friends, i lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again,” he said.
All five members of the music band which had been hired for the event died on the spot, too.
None of the guests were government officials, sought by Daesh or any other militant group. The groom and bride’s families, like many of those attending the ceremony, belonged to poor families.
Several of the victims were children and young men from the Shiite and Hazara communities, both of which have come under a spate of attacks, claimed by Da’esh and its affiliates, in recent times.
The hotel had no guards and guests were not body searched either, according to survivors. Shiite mosques, several cultural centers and at least one massive anti-government protest was subjected to such attacks recently, but Sunday’s attack on the wedding ceremony was the rarest of its kind, eliciting a reaction from President Ashraf Ghani who blamed the group for the incident.
“I strongly condemn the inhumane attack on the wedding hall in Kabul last night. My top priority for now is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack. On behalf of the nation I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were martyred,” he tweeted.
“Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists,” it added.
Shahzada Masood, a former government adviser said that by conducting such attacks, foreign “intelligence networks” were damaging the peace process, adding that any plans to divide Afghans on ethnic and sectarian lines would fail.
He said that another reason for the attack could be to further create a rift and add to the mistrust between the people and the government which was left out of the peace talks, with Ghani pushing to re-elect himself in September’s presidential polls.
The attack which precedes celebrations to mark a centenary of independence exposed the weakness of the government, Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, a lawmaker said.
“This was not the first such attack, government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families largely living abroad, but we the ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely,” he told Arab News.

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

Updated 21 January 2020

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

  • Islamabad reaffirms commitment to the Afghan peace process, says FO
  • Wells is in Islamabad since Sunday on a four-day visit

ISLAMABAD: The chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, Alice G. Wells, on Tuesday discussed the ongoing Afghan reconciliation process with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood in Islamabad, ahead of an expected US-Taliban peace agreement.

The principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs at the US State Department has been in Pakistan since Sunday on a four-day visit to discuss a host of issues of bilateral interest, including the Afghan peace process.

US-Taliban talks have been ongoing in the Qatari capital, Doha, where they are moving toward a peace deal. 

Pakistan has been involved in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US to restore peace in the region.

“The two sides (Pakistan and the US) ... discussed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement after the hours-long meeting between Wells and Mahmood.

During the meeting, the statement said Pakistan, has “reaffirmed its resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.”

This is the second time in recent months the US and Taliban have appeared close to announcing a peace deal. 

In September, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Monday in a Twitter post that a three-member team representing the Taliban – Mullah Baradar Akhund, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai and Amir Khan Muttaqqi – met with US special envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Scott Miller, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Experts have termed the recent negotiations between the US and Taliban decisive and are expecting them to reach an agreement by the end of this month.

“Taliban have already agreed on a violence reduction in Afghanistan that was one of the key demands of the US. So, it means both sides are close to a significant peace pact,” Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on Afghanistan and Taliban affairs, told Arab News.

He said that Pakistan has played a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table by using its influence over the militants. “Alice Wells may discuss the pros and cons of the proposed peace agreement with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership during her meetings,” he said.