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Dozens dead in Afghan wedding suicide blast

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 June 2010

A suicide bomb attack at a wedding party leaves at least 40 dead and 77 wounded in southern Afghanistan where Nato troops are focused on pushing out Taliban insurgents.

Wounded wedding guests treated after Afghan blast

Officials said the blast happened in the Arghandab district north of Kandahar, a known stronghold for insurgents.

"A suicide bomber went inside the party where hundreds of people were sitting and blew himself up," a police official said yesterday. A Kandahar policeman said many of the guests had links to local police officials or a local militia, which was why it was likely targeted - although the Taliban have denied responsibility calling it a "brutal act".

Witnesses described scenes of chaos at the wedding, which had drawn around 400 celebrants including women and children from nearby villages. The blast appeared to rip through the ceremony at 2130 local time last night (1700 GMT).

"Some people were waiting for food, others were dancing inside a big tent, when I heard a deafening blast," a wounded survivor named Aminullah said.

"The dust went up in the sky and I saw dead bodies everywhere. Women and children were screaming. I thought it was end of the world."

The Taliban have previously claimed responsibility for insurgent attacks, but recanted once civilian casualties have become clear.

A Taliban spokesman laid blame at the feet of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which have come under criticism for misdirected air strikes. An ISAF spokeswoman said it was not involved in the blast and had helped local security forces in follow up operations.

Yesterday four American troops died when their helicopter was shot down in Helmand province in an operation to evacuate two British soldiers wounded in a gun battle with insurgents in Sangin. A British serviceman was killed in a separate bomb blast bringing the total UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 294.

As tributes were paid to the serviceman it was revealed that the US government warned Britain in 2006 that too few soldiers were being sent to fight the Helmand insurgency. In a visit to London four years ago senior US officials warned that a brigade of only 3,300 soldiers would not be sufficient to deal with the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, according to The Times newspaper.

The Taliban have regrouped since their US-led overthrow in 2001 and now engage a foreign force that is expected to grow to 150,000 in coming months as part of an offensive against insurgent strongholds in the south.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or suicide attacks are often used on foreign or Afghan forces, but pro-government sympathisers are also targeted and the insurgency used as a cover to settle old scores.

Rural wedding parties in Afghanistan can often host large gatherings of people and frequently accompanied by celebratory gunfire. Several have mistakenly been attacked in the past by foreign forces.

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