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In Afghanistan, Suicide Bomb Explosion Kills Dozens At Wedding Celebration

A suicide bomber attacked a wedding party, killing at least 40 men and boys, and wounding dozens more, NPR's Soraya Sarahaddi Nelson reports from Afghanistan.

Hundreds of male guests had gathered in a family compound outside of Kandahar City, in Nagahan, when the bomber approached.  A witness described him as a teenager who set off a grenade that ignited his explosives-packed vest.

According to Nelson, officials say the groom, who is a policeman, was injured, and he is being treated at Kandahar's main hospital.  The New York Times reports he "had recently joined an anti-Taliban militia."

Because men and women are segregated at weddings in Afghanistan, the bride and her female guest were elsewhere when the blast occurred.

The Taliban is believed to be behind the attack in the village, which is staunchly pro-government.  But a spokesman for the militants denied involvement, as is often the case when high numbers of civilian casualties are involved.

The Guardian's correspondent in Kabul spoke with village members at the hospital, "which last night appeared to be struggling to deal with the influx of causalities." Several people told him "it was a deliberate attack on one of the commanders of the [Local Defense Initiative], a man called Haji Muhammad Nabi Kako."

Apparently, "he had been attending the wedding with his men, one of whom was the brother of the groom."

In recent weeks, militants have escalated attacks on Afghans they believe are supporters of the government or Western coalition, in advance of planned NATO operations to drive the Taliban out of Kandahar.