Afghanistan wedding shootout leaves 21 dead

One of the children injured in the shootout is treated is hospital. Picture: AP
One of the children injured in the shootout is treated is hospital. Picture: AP
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A SHOOTOUT at a wedding party in northern Afghanistan has left 21 people dead and eight wounded.

The gunfight broke out between two groups attending the wedding in Dih Salah district late on Sunday, Abdul Jabar Perdili, police chief of Baghlan province, said.

He said most of the dead had been wedding guests and at least two of the injured were younger than 18 years old.

The police chief of Dih Salah, Colonel Gulistan Qasani, said hostility between the two groups involved in the gunfight had been simmering for many years. “The clash broke out after a relative of a provincial police official was assassinated during the wedding party,” he said.

He said some 400 people had gathered at a private house for the wedding of a local mullah’s son. “When we collected the bodies it was difficult to determine who were the shooters and who were not, because I could not find any weapons,” Col Qasani said.

Baghlan and other provinces of the north have been plagued by insurgent attacks since the US-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taleban. However, the war is often used as a cover for criminal activity and personal feuds.

In northern Sari Pul province, a local police commander and seven of his men have surrendered to the Taleban in Kohistanat district, according to provincial police chief General Mohammad Asef Jabarkhail.

He said the surrender came after Taleban fighters attacked police checkpoints on Sunday. Reinforcements have reached the area to support police still fighting, he said.

The Taleban, who often exaggerate battlefield gains, said 100 police in Sari Pul had defected to their side, a claim Gen Jabarkhail denied.

Meanwhile, in a country left awash in arms following years of war and conflict, a ban on toy guns has come into effect.

The weapons of Afghanistan’s long decades of war can be seen almost everywhere, from the burned-out hulks of Soviet tanks to Kalashnikov assault rifles and assault helicopters, so it is no surprise that children play “police and Taleban,” chasing each other around with toy guns.

At least 184 people, nearly all children, suffered eye injuries over the recent Eid al-Fitr holiday from toy weapons that fire BB pellets.

Under the ban, police have been told to search shops and seize toy guns from children, but the interior ministry could not give any figure for the number of toy weapons confiscated.

Parents like Shakib Nasery, a 38-year-old father of two, welcomed the ban, saying: “It is not good for a society to have kids with such mentality playing gun battles. Unfortunately, this is the negative impact of an ongoing war in our country.”