43 killed in suicide attack on Eid el Maulud gathering in Kabul

At least 43 people were killed in a suicide attack on a religious celebration in Kabul on Tuesday, officials said, in one of the deadliest assaults 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 during 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 scholars and leaders inside a wedding hall where hundreds had gathered to mark the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday — one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar.

Religious studies lecturer Mohammad Hanif said verses of the Koran were being recited when there was a deafening explosion followed by “chaos” inside the packed hall.

“More than 60 or 70 people were martyred,” Hanif, 31, told AFP outside a trauma facility run by Italian NGO Emergency. He escaped unhurt.

“They suffered burns, everyone in the halls was screaming for help.”

A photo posted on WhatsApp purportedly of the function room showed blood-splattered bodies, some with clothes partially ripped off by the force of the blast, overturned chairs and broken glass strewn over the floor.

President Ashraf Ghani declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for the victims of the attack, which he described in a statement as an “unforgivable crime”.

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