Taliban blamed for attack on wedding party that killed 40

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The Independent Online

A Taliban suicide bomber was last night blamed for an attack in the middle of a crowded wedding party that killed 40 as revenge against villagers who were working with the Kabul government.

Government officials said the suicide bomber walked into a compound during a feast at Nadahan, one of a number of villages in the province of Kandahar where US special forces are fostering anti-Taliban militants.

A Taliban spokesman denied responsibility for the attack, but US television channel CBS reported that a Taliban commander had admitted the attack was "collective punishment of the Taliban, or God" for villagers who had united against the Islamic militants.

One witness told The Independent that he was knocked unconscious as a ball of flame engulfed the building. "After I came to I saw many dead bodies, blood and body parts in the compound. Many had been killed and injured," he said. Scores were wounded in the attack and provincial governor Tooryalai Wesa warned that the toll could rise. Many villagers refused to believe that militants would show such disregard for life. "People are confused," a man from Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold, said.

Afghanistan has been largely spared bombings designed to inflict maximum casualties – such as those witnessed in Iraq – with the Taliban showing some care to avoid civilian casualties.

But there are exceptions: in 2008 a massive suicide bomb at a dogfight in Kandahar killed more than 100 people, including tribal strongman Abdul Hakim Jan, one of the province's few remaining guarantors of security. The scale of the carnage was designed not just to kill but to send a message that the Taliban would brook no opposition. Tuesday night's bombing bore similar hallmarks.

During a joint press conference with David Cameron, who is visiting Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing as "a crime of massive inhuman proportions".