Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 63 In Afghanistan

Aug 18, 2019
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

At least 63 people have been killed and almost 200 wounded in a suicide bombing at a wedding in Kabul, Afghanistan, last night. The Islamic State in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack. This comes as peace talks continue between the Taliban and the United States. The deal is aimed at a withdrawal of U.S. troops. Reporter Jennifer Glasse is in Afghanistan, and she joins us now from Kabul. Welcome.

JENNIFER GLASSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's the latest this morning, Jennifer?

GLASSE: Well, at the scene of the attack, they are cleaning up. The walls and the floor are covered in blood. The tables and chairs have been pushed aside to get to those dead and wounded. We didn't even get a death toll until this morning. That attack happened on Saturday night at a crowded wedding hall, more than a thousand guests there. Right now, we have families burying their dead, including 14 members of one family alone, so a pretty devastating attack here in Kabul.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the Islamic State claimed that it carried out the attack, right?

GLASSE: It did claim that it carried out the attack, and it named the bomber as well. This is a group that has targeted the minority Hazara, mainly Shia Hazara, community again and again, and this was another instance of that. It claimed that it sent the suicide bomber into the wedding hall.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Obviously, this comes at a time when the United States is negotiating the withdrawal of U.S. troops. And first of all, where are we with these peace talks?

GLASSE: Well, both the Taliban and the United States say things are moving forward. They just completed, on the 12 of August, the eighth round of talks in Doha and Qatar between the United States and the Taliban. On Friday, Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator, briefed President Trump on the talk and we understand he is heading back to the region. We understand that there is some sort of agreement hammered out, but we think it is just about withdrawal of U.S. troops and that a cease-fire has not been agreed, and that's a great concern here. The Afghan government has not been involved in these talks and the Afghan government spokesman, the presidential spokesman, yesterday said they want a cease-fire to be guaranteed in these talks and also a Taliban promise that they will negotiate with the government. But a lot of people here, Lulu, are very concerned about the lack of clarity on what's been happening at these peace talks and what it will mean for any kind of further violence here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I mean, I suppose especially in the context of this latest bombing, I mean, will that have an effect on these talks briefly?

GLASSE: Well, of course, this is the Islamic State and that's exactly the point, that the peace talks are with the Taliban. But the fact that the Islamic State continues to carry out attacks here really illustrates how complicated the issue is here. It's not just the Taliban that are fighting, it's the Islamic State and a number of other insurgent groups that carry out attacks here, including the Haqqani network closely linked with the Taliban - some people say it's the same as the Taliban. But what will a peace deal with the Taliban do to the violence here? That's a real concern. We've seen the violence ratchet up as the peace talks have gone on presumably because the Taliban want to have more leverage at the negotiating table.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Jennifer Glasse in Afghanistan. Thank you very much.

GLASSE: Good to talk to you Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.