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Westlake Legal Group > Kabul (Afghanistan)

One Minute It Was an Afghan Wedding. The Next, a Funeral for 63.

KABUL, Afghanistan — One minute, it was a wedding — nearly a thousand guests packed under one roof, a thin partition segregating them by gender. Men shimmied to a live band, women spun to a D.J. Their invitation cards read: We celebrate “with a world of hope and desire.”

The next minute, a suicide bomber walked into the men’s section of the Kabul hall and turned it into carnage. Dozens were dead, on the dance floor and around their tables. The band perished on the stage. The women were left broken, wailing, and searching.

Even by the standards of Afghanistan, where dozens are killed every day in a long war that seems out of control, the attack Saturday night was a shock. And not just because one bomber could end at least 63 lives, wound nearly 200, and scar hundreds of others for life.

It also was because of the choice of target and the timing, just as American negotiators are finalizing a deal with Taliban insurgents to extricate United States forces from Afghanistan after 18 years.

The Islamic State asserted responsibility on Sunday for the blast and identified the bomber in such a way as to suggest he was from neighboring Pakistan, underscoring just some of the complexities in the conflict that the Americans will be leaving behind.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159418353_b53e3d8d-a45d-416c-b54b-4e84b90b8871-articleLarge One Minute It Was an Afghan Wedding. The Next, a Funeral for 63. Weddings and Engagements Terrorism Taliban Kabul (Afghanistan) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Funerals and Memorials Afghanistan War (2001- )

A badly damaged Dubai City Wedding Hall the day after the attack.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Violent loss in Afghanistan is such a daily reality that any celebration — a concert, or even dinner at a restaurant — often is avoided as unnecessary risk-taking.

A wedding, a celebration of union, had remained the exception, an occasion when people could dance without guilt, laugh without hesitation. But for the bride and groom, who survived, and the hundreds of their relatives, that respite was snatched.

“Death is better for me than this,” Mirwais Alami, the groom, told a local television channel. “I can’t get myself to go to the funerals, my legs feel weak. Even if they tear me to pieces now, and take a piece of me to each home that lost a loved one so they get solace, their hearts won’t get peace.”

Although the Taliban wage the majority of the insurgent violence, the Islamic State — which is no ally of the Taliban’s — also has established a small but stubborn foothold in Afghanistan and has claimed responsibility for many deadly explosions. Unlike the Taliban, the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State often hit targets like Shiite mosques, gyms and schools to foment sectarian divisions.

American negotiators with the Taliban have sought assurances that it will not support international and regional terrorist groups. Afghan officials worry that the United States is agreeing to a rushed withdrawal of its remaining 14,000 troops without leaving a realistic transition period to test the Taliban’s true intentions for peace or the extent of Islamic State’s threat.

“This war has turned this land into a slaughterhouse where nowhere is safe, where we don’t live but spend our days trying to stay alive,” Shaharzad Akbar, the chairwoman of Afghanistan’s human rights commission, wrote on Twitter. “How & when will we overcome this culture of murder & violence, this mentality of terror, this terrifying willingness 4 indiscriminate slaughter?”

A day after the wedding, the couple’s new bedroom, at the groom’s family home, sat unused.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Mr. Alami, the groom, is a tailor. He is 25. His bride, Raihana, was just graduating high school, and is 18.

Their families are working class, their homes modest. From the engagement about seven months ago, he had spent about $14,000 on wedding expenses, from savings and from loans.

“I brought pain, and nothing else — no happiness,” Mr. Alami said.

The wedding was not even supposed to happen this soon. When the couple became engaged, the bride’s parents had agreed on the condition that she not marry for two years, until she graduated and took some time.

But about three months ago, the groom asked her parents if the wedding could be scheduled earlier, partly because in Afghanistan, it is a time of great uncertainty. No one knows what might happen once the Americans withdraw, and whether the agreement between the Taliban and the United States will bring peace — or still more conflict.

Many Afghans are skeptical. They say the American agreement with the insurgents is rushing the withdrawal of troops because of President Trump’s electoral calculations rather than the conditions on the ground. It could result in a full-blown civil war or the return of the Taliban in triumphant ways, they say. And that could cost Afghans their basic liberties.

These days, such fears are a factor in every matter of life.

Makai Hazrati, the bride’s mother, said she had asked the couple to wait for at least after the 100th anniversary celebration of Afghanistan’s independence, on Monday, when she hoped threats would subside. But they had argued back, noting that soon after that occasion would be another of high threat: the Shiite commemoration of Ashura next month, which has been repeatedly targeted by the Islamic State.

A cousin of the bride who lost a brother in the bombing collapsed at a funeral.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

“I wanted to arrange a small gathering between two families in the house, but Raihana wanted to have a bigger wedding party in a hall,” Ms. Hazrati said.

The Dubai City Wedding Hall, a spacious if modest venue in the west of Kabul, was booked for about 1,000 guests. The groom delivered all the groceries for the meal, and the hall’s kitchen staff prepared massive pots of pilaf rice, chicken drumsticks, chopped cucumbers and sliced melons.

When Raihana and several girlfriends went to a beauty salon hours before the ceremony, Ms. Hazrati made a stop to rent a special vest the bride’s family usually gives the groom. Mr. Alami had insisted that they not purchase one — a one-night rental would do.

The suicide bomber, identified by the Islamic State as Abu Asim al-Pakistani, walked into the men’s section around 10:30 p.m. The couple had changed clothes once already, after wearing green for the ritual of putting henna in each other’s palms. In the women’s section, dinner was served, the food still on the table.

In the men’s section, music played and friends danced as they awaited dinner. The groom was in a separate room upstairs, where the ceremony of nikah, completion of a marriage contract, was underway.

“Four people were dancing in the middle, others were cheering them on,” said Ezatullah Ramin, 23, a relative. “Then I saw a huge flame, and then a big bang.”

A funeral for about 20 people killed in the attack.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Knocked out by the explosion, Mr. Ramin awoke surrounded by dead guests, badly mangled and many in pieces.

“There is an echo in my ear still — a mix of music and the blast,” he said.

Early Sunday morning, the wedding hall was cordoned off by police officers as workers tried to remove the blood and debris.

The floor at the men’s hall was washed clean, as if the blood of dozens had not been smeared there. Ceiling pieces dangled. The murals around the hall, of lush and serene scenery, were punctured by the ball-bearings that had been packed into the bomber’s suicide vest.

“I have been burying bodies all night, all morning,” said Mohammed Hamid, a relative of the groom.

He had come to the wedding hall to load a truck with the pots of unserved food, sweets and sugar for the tea, and hundreds of cans of soda.

Some of that food went to the wake at the house of a neighbor of the groom, where two funerals were happening: one for a husband killed at the wedding hall, the other for his young wife, who had a heart attack after her husband’s body arrived home early Sunday morning.

The husband, Najib, was a close friend of the groom’s brother, Basir.

“I feel guilty because I invited him to the party,” Basir said. “I thought we were going to have fun.”

Flowers on the graves of people killed in the suicide bombing.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Nearly two dozen bodies arrived in a small, tightly knit community where the bride’s family lives. Armed men dotted the narrow lane leading to a mosque, frisking visitors out of fear of a second suicide bomber.

Men wailed as the final prayers were recited at the mosque’s small garden. Some fainted, others were collapsed in corners — holding and consoling one another.

Next door to the mosque, the women’s cries would grow louder as the bodies made a final stop, a final farewell with mothers and sisters. Many of the bodies were not in a condition for the coffins to be opened.

Then, one by one, the bodies arrived at a small cemetery, and were lowered into holes dug so close together they might as well have been one mass grave.

At noon, many — including the bride’s father — were still searching for news of loved ones. One of the bride’s younger brothers was still missing.

“They say there’s one body at Aliabad hospital that is unidentified,” a man stepped into the mosque’s garden and announced.

The bride’s father, wiping his tears with his sleeves, followed the man, down the dusty alley.

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Afghan president says he’ll visit Pakistan to improve ties

Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Afghan president says he'll visit Pakistan to improve ties Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/religion fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 7d6c681b-69c6-5cd6-85e0-d3842e68da82

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he will visit Pakistan on June 27 to open a new chapter in his country’s uneasy relationship with its neighbor and mend ties that are often characterized by mistrust and tit-for-tat accusations.

In his message to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that caps the fasting month of Ramadan, Ghani said he agreed to visit Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan after the two leaders met last week on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Saudi Arabia.

“I hope the visit will be positive,” Ghani said.

Kabul routinely accuses Pakistan of harboring its Taliban enemies, yet in recent months Islamabad has lent its support to U.S. efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan’s long-running war.

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Afghan officials: 3 bomb blasts in capital, 1 killed

Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Afghan officials: 3 bomb blasts in capital, 1 killed Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 64d1bc32-dcb4-5e69-9964-44c49a8cd366

Afghan officials say there have been three explosions in the capital, Kabul, including a sticky bomb attached to a bus carrying university students that killed at least one person.

Ferdus Faramarz, spokesman for the Kabul police chief, has confirmed that two other blasts were later heard from the same area, but couldn’t provide more details.

He says ten people were also wounded in Sunday’s attack, which took place in western part of the city.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the public health ministry, says at least four women are among the wounded from the bus attack and have been taken to hospitals.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul, but both Taliban and Islamic State militants are active in the capital and have staged attacks in Kabul.

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Afghan official says female journalist shot dead in capital

Westlake Legal Group afghan-official-says-female-journalist-shot-dead-in-capital Afghan official says female journalist shot dead in capital Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 44e6e3a5-b060-5149-9079-38e7a544e011
Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Afghan official says female journalist shot dead in capital Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 44e6e3a5-b060-5149-9079-38e7a544e011

An Afghan official says that unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a female journalist and adviser to the country’s parliament in the capital Kabul.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the interior ministry, says that Mena Mangal, a cultural adviser for the lower house of the parliament and former TV presenter, was killed when she was on her way to work Saturday morning.

Rahimi said one or possibly more assailants escaped form the scene. Kabul police have launched an investigation.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kabul police say that it is not clear whether the murder was a terror act or the result of a personal dispute. Both Islamic State group and Taliban militants regularly carry out attacks in the capital.

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Afghan official says female journalist shot dead in capital

Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Afghan official says female journalist shot dead in capital Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 44e6e3a5-b060-5149-9079-38e7a544e011

An Afghan official says that unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a female journalist and adviser to the country’s parliament in the capital Kabul.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the interior ministry, says that Mena Mangal, a cultural adviser for the lower house of the parliament and former TV presenter, was killed when she was on her way to work Saturday morning.

Rahimi said one or possibly more assailants escaped form the scene. Kabul police have launched an investigation.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kabul police say that it is not clear whether the murder was a terror act or the result of a personal dispute. Both Islamic State group and Taliban militants regularly carry out attacks in the capital.

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Taliban attack on US-based aid group raises concern in Kabul

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-37cef3b5319f425599428d8687d19d41 Taliban attack on US-based aid group raises concern in Kabul Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 2256813e-433c-5a57-a925-7d8cc6c9a12b

A deadly Taliban attack on U.S.-based aid group in the Afghan capital has raised concerns among other relief organizations that they could be targeted.

Authorities say Wednesday’s assault on Counterpart International in Kabul killed at least nine people as insurgents set off a huge explosion and battled security forces for over six hours. Those killed included three Afghan employees of the organization and two of its security guards.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday they had targeted the organization because Counterpart International promotes “Western culture,” including encouraging the mixing of the genders — something that is taboo to the Taliban.

Mujahid claimed the organization was also training Afghan security forces, without elaborating.

The attack came as the Taliban hold peace talks with the U.S. in Qatar.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-37cef3b5319f425599428d8687d19d41 Taliban attack on US-based aid group raises concern in Kabul Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 2256813e-433c-5a57-a925-7d8cc6c9a12b   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-37cef3b5319f425599428d8687d19d41 Taliban attack on US-based aid group raises concern in Kabul Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 2256813e-433c-5a57-a925-7d8cc6c9a12b

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Afghan official: Taliban hit security checkpoints, killing 8

Westlake Legal Group afghan-official-taliban-hit-security-checkpoints-killing-8 Afghan official: Taliban hit security checkpoints, killing 8 Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 2450db39-41e5-58db-b5ee-9689c8210f1d
Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Afghan official: Taliban hit security checkpoints, killing 8 Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 2450db39-41e5-58db-b5ee-9689c8210f1d

An Afghan official says the Taliban have targeted security checkpoints in northeastern Takhar province, killing eight members of the security forces.

Wafiullah Rahmani, head of the provincial council, says three soldiers and five policemen were killed in Monday night’s attack in Khwaja Bahaudin district.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The insurgents stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, even as peace efforts have accelerated to find an end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war.

Separately, Dadullah Qaneh, councilman in western Farah province, says coalition forces on Sunday carried out airstrikes against Taliban-run heroin labs, killing 15 laborers.

But Mohibullah Mohib, the provincial police chief’s spokesman, says those killed in Bakwa district were all members of the Taliban.

The Taliban run most of Afghanistan’s drug trade and control vast opium poppy fields.

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Afghan grand council sets recommendations for Taliban talks

Westlake Legal Group afghan-grand-council-sets-recommendations-for-taliban-talks Afghan grand council sets recommendations for Taliban talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 3f343eb2-72c3-5fa0-86a8-c6927084f212
Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-996e50d63a124bc79177142ed53e8f4e-1 Afghan grand council sets recommendations for Taliban talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 3f343eb2-72c3-5fa0-86a8-c6927084f212

An Afghan grand council has come up with a series of recommendations for peace talks with the Taliban after four days of meetings in Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani convened the council of more than 3,200 participants, known as Loya Jirga, to hammer out a common strategy. The gathering ends on Friday.

The participants, divided into dozens of committees, discussed several issues, including a cease-fire in the 17-year war, and women’s rights in keeping with the tenets of Islam.

Also this week, the Taliban and U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad embarked on another round of talks in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marudi met Khalilzad in Doha on Wednesday, after meeting the Taliban chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the day earlier.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-996e50d63a124bc79177142ed53e8f4e-1 Afghan grand council sets recommendations for Taliban talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 3f343eb2-72c3-5fa0-86a8-c6927084f212   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-996e50d63a124bc79177142ed53e8f4e-1 Afghan grand council sets recommendations for Taliban talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 3f343eb2-72c3-5fa0-86a8-c6927084f212

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Taliban: Fresh round of talks with US peace envoy opening

Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Taliban: Fresh round of talks with US peace envoy opening Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 155258dc-b9c2-5900-ba53-9486c50d37cb

The Taliban say a fresh round of talks with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is to begin in Qatar, where the religious movement maintains a political office.

Khalilzad has been tasked with finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war and America’s longest military confrontation.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Associated Press that Wednesday’s talks will be the sixth round of direct meetings with the Khalilzad since his appointment last year. Talks are narrowly focused on a U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used to stage global terrorist attacks.

Khalilzad, who was in Pakistan on Tuesday, is touring the region to press Afghanistan as well as its neighbors to forge ahead toward finding a peaceful end to the fighting.

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Afghan president holds council to set agenda for peace talks

Westlake Legal Group afghan-president-holds-council-to-set-agenda-for-peace-talks Afghan president holds council to set agenda for peace talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 8ecfe90e-053d-575f-b84b-4e13da64df34
Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-e9e29556bf44453e91499aee30da6d85 Afghan president holds council to set agenda for peace talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 8ecfe90e-053d-575f-b84b-4e13da64df34

The Afghan president is hosting a grand council of some 2,500 prominent figures to agree on a shared approach to peace talks with the Taliban.

But the gathering — known as a Loya Jirga — instead looks to further aggravate divisions within the U.S.-backed government, even as America makes progress with the insurgents in direct talks aimed at ending the 18-year war

President Ashraf Ghani hopes to showcase unity at the gathering of politicians, tribal elders and others. But Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, his partner in a unity government brokered by the United States after a bitterly disputed election in 2014, heads a list of prominent no-shows.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilza has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban, who refuse to negotiate directly with the Kabul government.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-e9e29556bf44453e91499aee30da6d85 Afghan president holds council to set agenda for peace talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 8ecfe90e-053d-575f-b84b-4e13da64df34   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-e9e29556bf44453e91499aee30da6d85 Afghan president holds council to set agenda for peace talks Kabul (Afghanistan) fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 8ecfe90e-053d-575f-b84b-4e13da64df34

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