Afghanistan’s president has vowed to eliminate all safe havens of the Islamic State group as the country marks a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the local IS affiliate.
President Ashraf Ghani’s comments on Monday came as Afghanistan mourned at least 63 people killed in the Kabul bombing.
Many outraged Afghans ask whether an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting will bring peace to long-suffering civilians.
A sharply worded Taliban statement questions why the US failed to identify the attackers in advance.
Another Taliban statement marking independence says to “leave Afghanistan to the Afghans”.
The US envoy in talks with the Taliban said the peace process should be accelerated to help Afghanistan defeat the IS affiliate.
But Mr Ghani asserted that the Taliban are just as much to blame for the wedding attack.
His government is openly frustrated at being sidelined from the US talks with the insurgent group, which regards the Afghan government as a US puppet.
The Taliban “have created the platform for terrorists” with their own brutal assaults on schools, mosques and other public places over the years, the president said.
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, the UN said, including in operations against insurgent hideouts carried out by international forces.
“We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood,” Mr 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.
He said safe havens for militants are across the border in Pakistan, whose intelligence service has long been accused of supporting the Taliban. The IS affiliate’s claim of the wedding attack said it was carried out by a Pakistani fighter seeking martyrdom.
Mr Ghani called on people in Pakistan “who very much want peace” to help identify militant safe havens.
Last month after meeting US President Donald Trump, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted he will do his best to persuade the Taliban to open negotiations with the Afghan government to resolve the war.
Mr Trump told reporters on Sunday he does not want Afghanistan to be a “laboratory for terror” and he described discussions with the Taliban as “good”.
In a message marking Afghanistan’s independence and “century of resilience”, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo called the weekend wedding bombing “an attack against humanity”.
It was one of many international expressions of condemnation pouring in following the attack.
Both the bride and groom survived the attack, and in an emotional interview with a local broadcaster the distraught groom said their lives were devastated within seconds.
Meanwhile, an Afghan official said at least 66 people were wounded in a series of explosions in the eastern province of Nangarhar as the country marked Independence Day.
He said at least 10 explosions occurred around the provincial capital, Jalalabad.
Most of the people have minor injuries and were released after treatment at local hospitals, he added.