An Afghan woman cries as she touches a banner displaying photographs of victims of the Dubai City wedding hall bombing during a memorial service in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. The deadly bombing at a wedding in Afghanistan's capital late last Saturday that killed dozens of people was a stark reminder that the war-weary country faces daily threats not only from the long-established Taliban but also from a brutal local affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Afghans mourn wedding victims, some criticize government

August 20, 2019 - 7:20 am

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday in mosques in Afghanistan's capital for memorials for scores of people killed in a horrific suicide bombing at a Kabul wedding over the weekend. Even in mourning, fears of a follow-up attack were high as armed community self-defense forces stood on guard.

The attack late Saturday claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State group has led many Afghans to question whether an expected deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting will bring peace to long-suffering civilians. Afghanistan was the world's deadliest conflict in 2018.

Some mourners criticized the Afghan government, which is shut out of U.S.-Taliban talks. The Taliban, which are at their strongest since being toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, dismiss the government as a U.S. puppet.

"They should apologize to the people for not bringing security," said Zia Mohammad, a relative of one victim. He called on President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to resign.

More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade. Saturday's bombing added at least 63 more. And the carnage is growing; the United Nations has said last year was the deadliest for civilians in a decade.

The Associated Press has learned of more deaths in Saturday's attack than the toll announced by Afghan officials, but officials on Tuesday would not comment.

"One of the wounded victims just died whom we hoped would survive and we are getting ready for his funeral," relative Hassan Mohammadi said. "Now we just hope that the rest of the wounded victims will get well soon."

Nearly 200 people were wounded in the blast, Afghan officials have said.

Afghanistan's minority Shiite Hazara community, targeted in the bombing, feels especially vulnerable. The IS affiliate which emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 has launched several large-scale attacks on minority Shiites, who it views as apostates deserving of death.

On Tuesday, community members searched people attending the memorials, and both Afghan and self-defense forces stood by as mourners at one memorial touched a banner displaying photos of dozens of the victims and wept.