Possibly Hundreds Caught In Blast Inside Wedding Hall In Kabul

Dozens of people have been killed or wounded after an explosion sent flames ripping through a wedding hall on Saturday night in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to The Associated Press.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told The Associated Press there was no immediate information on the cause of the explosion, though the news service noted that there were hundreds of people believed to be inside at the time of the blast and a witness later reportedly told The Associated Press that the attacker set off the explosives near the stage where children had gathered.

The incident reportedly occurred at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, an area that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home.

Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group conduct violent attacks in Kabul, according to The Associated Press.

Just ten days ago, a Taliban car bomb reportedly aimed at Afghan security forces tore through a west Kabul neighborhood. That blast and this one occurred on the same road, The Associated Press reported, and it killed 14 people while injuring 145.

Last November, at least 50 people were killed after a suicide bomber went into a hall like the one where Saturday's incident occurred, where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

"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 inside a wedding?!! #Kabulbleeds Why this enmity against innocent Afghans!!!" Sediq Sediqqi, Spokesperson for the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, tweeted on Saturday.

On August 3, the United Nations (UN) in Afghanistan reported in a press release that civilian casualty rates in the country "returned to record high levels" in July, and a recorded number of more than 1,500 civilians killed and injured made it the deadliest month since 2017.

Several officials have suggested that peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban may have caused the uptick in violence.

"As peace efforts have intensified in recent weeks so too has the conflict on the ground," Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN's Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan said in the press release.

A Friday report by The Wall Street Journal noted that a bombing at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Quetta, a Taliban stronghold, that same day killed the younger brother of the Taliban's leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, according to Pakistani security officials. The article said those officials described the attack as an attempt by the Afghan and Indian intelligence services to sabotage the Afghan peace process.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and overthrew the Taliban, as it accused the Middle Eastern country of harboring Al-Qaeda jihadists who claimed the September 11 attacks against the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

However, the Taliban has since waged an insurgency. The organization's increased presence has prompted Washington to appeal to the Taliban by way of a peace deal, ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election, which is slated for September 28.

A peace deal could include a phased U.S troop pullout in exchange for Taliban promises that Afghanistan harbor extremist groups aiming to attack Americans, according to reports on Friday and Saturday.

A member of the bomb disposal unit collects evidence after a suicide blast in Quetta, Pakistan, on July 25, 2018. An estimated 40 people were killed in election day attacks. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed