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Afghan president vows to ‘eliminate’ Islamic State havens after wedding attack

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a joint news conference with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 12, 2016. (Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee/Department of Defense)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has vowed to “eliminate” all safe havens of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group after at least 63 people, including children, were killed in a Kabul bombing at a wedding hall late on August 17 claimed by a local IS affiliate.

Close to 200 others were wounded.

Ghani’s statement came as Afghanistan on August 19 celebrates the 100th anniversary of independence from the British.

“We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood,” Ghani declared. “Our struggle will continue against [IS], we will take revenge and will root them out.” He urged the international community to join those efforts.

However, several blasts struck restaurants and public squares on August 19 in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, wounding at least 34 people, officials said.

No group claimed responsibility for the 10 explosions but both Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban militants operate in the region.

The explosions in Jalalabad occurred near a market where hundreds of people had gathered after attending events to mark 100 years since Afghanistan’s independence. At least 34 people were wounded, senior health official Fahim Bashari said.

The Jalalabad blasts came two days after the wedding attack, which was condemned by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Sadly Afghanistan’s 100-year history has also been marked by conflict. The terrorist attack against a Kabul wedding hall this weekend is an attack against humanity,” the message said on August 18.

Pompeo said Afghans have much “to be proud of as you celebrate a century of resilience and cultural diversity.”

The attack on the wedding was the deadliest in Kabul this year and came with Washington and Taliban militants reportedly nearing a deal to end a nearly 18-year war.

Pompeo mentioned improvements the country has seen over the last 20 years in “education, health, infrastructure, women’s rights, economic opportunity, and media freedom.”

Pompeo promised to “redouble our commitment” toward a “peaceful future.”

“I strongly condemn the inhumane attack on the wedding hall in Kabul,” Ghani said in a tweet. “My top priority for now is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack. On behalf of the nation I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were martyred.”

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad took to Twitter to denounce the “heinous attack.”

“We must accelerate the Afghan Peace Process including intra-Afghan negotiations. Success here will put Afghans in a much stronger position to defeat” the IS group, he wrote in a separate tweet.

The bombing hit a district of the Afghan capital more populated by Shi’ites than many other parts of the city.

IS and its sympathizers and affiliates have repeatedly targeted Shi’a in addition to other victims since they became active in Afghanistan in 2015.

More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, the United Nations said earlier this year. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors, the UN said, including in operations against insurgent hideouts carried out by international forces.