Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a wedding party in Afghanistan's capital on Saturday night in which at least 63 people were killed.
A statement by the militant group posted on an IS-linked website on Sunday said a Pakistani IS fighter seeking martyrdom targeted the large Shiite gathering in Kabul.
The IS affiliate claimed that, after the suicide bombing, a car bomb was also detonated in the attack.
Officials said nearly 200 people were wounded in the attack which took place in the western part of Kabul - home to many in the minority Shiites Hazara community.
Amid the carnage were blood-covered chairs, crushed music speakers and a pile of abandoned shoes.
The Taliban condemned the bombing as “forbidden and unjustifiable” and denied any involvement.
Both the Taliban and IS have carried large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.
A witness said the attacker set off his explosives vest near the stage where children and others had gathered.
Another witness, Mohammad Toofan, said that “a lot of guests were martyred”.
Hundreds of people were believed to be inside the hall.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi confirmed the casualty toll on Sunday as families began to bury the dead - some helped to dig graves with their bare hands.
“There are so many dead and wounded,” said Ahmad Omid, a survivor who said about 1,200 guests had been invited to the wedding for his father’s cousin.
“I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was lying all around the hall.”
Outside a local hospital, families wailed. Others were covered in blood.
Messages of shock poured in from across the world, with the European Union mission to Afghanistan saying "such acts are beyond condemnation", while US Ambassador John Bass branded it “an act of extreme depravity”.
The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home, shattered a period of relative calm in the city.
On August 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road in a busy west Kabul neighbourhood, killing 14 people and wounding 145 – most of them women, children and other civilians.
Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centres of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of pounds spent on a single evening.
“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 (up) inside a wedding?!!” Sediq Seddiqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a Twitter post.
The wedding halls also serve as meeting places. In November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
The latest attack came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday.
The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.
The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Mr Seddiqi said earlier on Saturday that his government was waiting to hear the results of President Donald Trump’s meeting Friday with his national security team about the negotiations.
Top issues include a US troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks.
While the Taliban earlier this year pledged to do more to protect civilians, it continues to stage deadly attacks against Afghan security forces and others in what is seen by many as an attempt to strengthen its position at the negotiating table.
The conflict continues to take a horrific toll on civilians and many Afghans fear that terror attacks inside the country will continue, and their pleas for peace — and for details on the talks — have increased in recent days.
Last year, more than 3,800, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, US and allied forces, the Islamic State affiliate and other actors, the United Nations said.