The bomb went off inside the the Dubai City wedding hall, in a western neighbourhood of Afghanistan’s capital that is home to many in the minority Shia Hazara community.
A statement by the militant group posted on an Isis-linked website on Sunday said the attack was carried out by a Pakistani Isis fighter. Isis has claimed responsibility for many deadly attacks against the Hazara community since the militant group emerged in Afghanistan in 2014.
The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon and seeing their bodies being carried out hours later. The attack “changed my happiness to sorrow”, the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told a local TV station, Tolo News. “My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting,” he said. “I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again.”
Mohammad Farhag, who attended the wedding, said he had been in the women’s section when he heard a huge blast in the men’s area. “Everyone ran outside shouting and crying,” he said. “For about 20 minutes the hall was full of smoke. Almost everyone in the men’s section is either dead or wounded.”
Two hours after the blast, bodies were still being removed from the hall, Farhag said.
Men carry coffins of the victims of a blast at a wedding in Kabul. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters
The blast comes at an uncertain time in Afghanistan as the US and the Taliban near a deal to end the nearly 18-year war. The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and Seddiqi said on Saturday his government was waiting to hear the outcome of a meeting of Donald Trump and his national security team about the negotiations. Top issues include the withdrawal of US troops and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks.
But even as the talks appear to be nearing a conclusion Isis is now emerging as the greatest threat to Afghan civilians.
The Taliban condemned the attack as “forbidden and unjustifiable” and denied any involvement.
Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said on Sunday the Taliban could not escape blame for the “barbaric” attack. “The Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame for they provide a platform for terrorists,” Ghani said in a post on Twitter.
Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centres of community life in a city weary from decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening.
In November last year at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber set off explosives at a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.
A view of the damaged site after a suicide blast that targeted a wedding reception in Kabul. Photograph: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The latest attack came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, as Kabul residents were visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday.
On Sunday stunned families buried the dead, some digging with their bare hands. One wounded survivor, Mohammad Aslim, still wore his bloodied clothes the day after the blast late Saturday. He and his friends had already buried 16 bodies, among them several close relatives, including a 7-year-old boy.
Ahmad Jamal, 26, a relative of the bride, told the Guardian: “This explosion occurred exactly at the middle of the hall, I was chatting with my friends less than 20 metres away when a huge explosion went off. Before that everyone was happy, some were dancing, some laughing, but the bomb ended everything. Some lost their lives while dancing.”
He added: “There were bodies on the ground everywhere you look. There were hands, feet and many other parts of the body with so [much] blood, I tried to count but it was countless. Ambulances and police arrived 30 minutes after the explosion. I feel the world has forgotten us, no one consider us as a human here.”
Talib Muzaffari, 24, who lives near the hall, told the Guardian: “It was around 10pm when we heard a very big explosion. We rushed to go outside to understand what had happened. Then ambulances arrived. There was sound of ambulances all night and we were in shock and did not sleep all night.”
Last year more than 3,800 civilians, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, US and allied forces, the Isis affiliate and other actors, the United Nations said.