THE Daesh group’s affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a wedding party in Kabul on Saturday night which killed at least 63 people.

A statement from the group, posted on a Daesh-linked website yesterday, said a Pakistani Daesh fighter seeking martyrdom targeted the large Shiite gathering. The Daesh affiliate also claimed that a car bomb was detonated during the attack.

Afghan officials said nearly 200 people were injured in the blast in a neighbourhood which is home to many in the minority Shiites Hazara community.

Daesh has claimed responsibility for many deadly attacks against the Hazara community since the militant group emerged in Afghanistan in 2014.

Eye witnesses to Saturday’s attack reported that the bomber had been standing by a stage where children and others had gathered when he detonated his explosives vest.

Ahmad Omid, a survivor, said about 1200 guests had been invited to the wedding of his father’s cousin. “I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn’t find anyone,” he said. “Everyone was lying all around the hall.”

Amid the carnage were blood-covered chairs, crushed music speakers and a pile of abandoned shoes. The blast at the hall, known as Dubai City wedding hall, shattered a period of relative calm in Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi confirmed the casualty toll yesterday as families began to bury the dead.

Kabul residents were outraged as there appears to be no end to violence despite assurances from the US and the Taliban that they are nearing a deal to end an 18-year conflict.

Messages of shock poured in yesterday. Presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said in a Twitter post: “Devastated by the news of a suicide attack inside a wedding hall in Kabul. A heinous crime against our people; how is it possible to train a human and ask him to go and blow himself (up) inside a wedding?!”

the EU mission to Afghanistan said: “Such acts are beyond condemnation,” while US ambassador John Bass branded it “an act of extremedepravity”.

The Taliban condemned the attack as “forbidden and unjustifiable” and denied involvement. Both the Taliban and Daesh have carried out attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.

Kabul’s huge wedding halls are centres of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening.

The wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November, at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into one where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

Saturday’s explosion came a few days after the end of Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, and just ahead of Afghanistan’s 100th independence day anniversary today. Kabul has been under heavier security ahead of the event.

Meanwhile, senior US officials and the Taliban appear close to a deal on ending the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Seddiqi on Saturday said his government was waiting to hear results of President Donald Trump’s meeting on Friday with his national security team about the negotiations.

Issues prioritised in the discussions include a US troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees that they would not allow Afghanistan to become a launching pad terrorist atrocities across the world.