BFF-57 At least 40 killed in suicide attack on Kabul religious gathering: officials

ZCZC

BFF-57

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST

At least 40 killed in suicide attack on Kabul religious gathering:
officials

KABUL, Nov 20, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – At least 40 people were killed in a
suicide bomb attack on a meeting of top clerics in Kabul on Tuesday,
officials said, in one of the deadliest attacks to strike the Afghan capital
in months.

It follows a wave of violence across war-torn Afghanistan in recent weeks
that has killed hundreds of people as militants step up attacks.

Another 60 people were wounded in the blast, health ministry spokesman
Wahid Majroh said, which targeted a gathering of religious leaders, including
members of the Ulema Council, at a wedding hall to mark the Prophet
Mohammad’s birthday.

“The suicide bomber detonated himself inside the hall during a ceremony by
religious schola,” Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid said, confirming the
casualty toll.

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the number of dead or wounded
was “more than 50” so far.

A manager of Uranus Wedding Palace, which also hosts political and
religious functions, told AFP a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle
of the gathering of religious scholars.

“There are a lot of casualties — I myself have counted 30 casualties,” he
told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but the
Islamic State group has claimed most recent suicide attacks in Kabul, which
has become the deadliest place in the country for civilians.

It is the bloodiest assault in the Afghan capital since a twin bomb attack
on a wrestling club in September that killed at least 26 people.

Last month’s parliamentary elections sparked a wave of deadly violence
across the country, with hundreds killed or wounded in poll-related attacks.

It is not the first time that religious scholars have been targeted by
militants in the deeply religious country.

In June a suicide bomber struck near a gathering of clerics in Kabul, about
an hour after the group had proclaimed such attacks a sin.

The latest attack comes as the Taliban intensifies pressure on Afghan
security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts to
convince the group to engage in peace talks.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad expressed hopes in Kabul on Sunday that a peace
deal to end the 17-year war could be struck before the Afghan presidential
election, scheduled for April.

His comments underscore an apparent increasing sense of urgency in the
White House and among American diplomats for a peace deal to be done quickly.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2111 hrs