Afghan men investigate in a wedding hall after a deadly bomb blast in Kabul on Sunday. Wakil Kohsar/AFP
Afghanistan's president on Monday vowed to "eliminate" all safe havens of the Daesh group as the country marked a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the local Daesh affiliate.
President Ashraf Ghani's comments came as Afghanistan mourns at least 63 people, including children, killed in the Kabul bombing at a wedding hall late on Saturday night. Close to 200 others were wounded.
Many outraged Afghans ask whether an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting — America's longest war — will bring peace to long-suffering civilians. The bomber detonated his explosives in the middle of a dancing crowd, and the Daesh affiliate later said he had targeted a gathering of minority Shiites, whom it views as apostates deserving of death.
Both the bride and groom survived, and in an emotional interview with local broadcaster TOLOnews the distraught groom, Mirwais Alani, said their lives were devastated within seconds.
"We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood. Our struggle will continue against (Daesh), we will take revenge and will root them out.
A sharply worded Taliban statement questioned why the US failed to identify the attackers in advance. Another Taliban statement marking the Independence Day said to "leave Afghanistan to the Afghans." More than anything in its nearly year-long negotiations with the US, the Taliban want some 20,000 US and allied forces to withdraw from the country.
The US envoy in talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Sunday said the peace process should be accelerated to help Afghanistan defeat the Daesh affiliate.
But Ghani on Monday asserted that the Taliban, whom the US now hopes will help to curb the Daesh affiliate's rise, are just as much to blame. His government is openly frustrated at being sidelined from the US talks with the insurgent group, which regards the Afghan government as a US puppet.
The Taliban "have created the platform for terrorists" with its own brutal assaults on schools, mosques and other public places over the years, the president said.
More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, the United Nations said earlier this year. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors, the UN said, including in operations against insurgent hideouts carried out international forces.
"We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood," Ghani declared. "Our struggle will continue against (Daesh), we will take revenge and will root them out." He urged the international community to join those efforts.
Thursday's massive explosion destroyed part of the hospital in Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province, and left a fleet of ambulances broken and battered.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they targeted three vehicles of "foreigners" as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where the Afghan national security authorities have offices.
Daesh said one of its fighters blew himself up at a "large gathering" in Kabul while others "detonated a parked explosives-laden vehicle" when security forces arrived, in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai also defended the Taliban's role in recent bloodshed across the country after US President Donald Trump cited an attack that killed an American soldier as his reason for calling off negotiations earlier this month.
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