Suicide bomber kills 40 at Afghan wedding

A suicide bomber killed at least 40 people and wounded more than 70 late Wednesday during a wedding in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, local officials said.

A police official said Thursday that a suicide bomber went to a party in Nagahan village in Arghandab district where hundreds of people were sitting and blew himself up.

The explosion came during the wedding dinner, between 9:30 and 10 p.m., reportedly striking the area where male guests were dining separately from the women. All the casualties were men or boys, village officials said, according to media reports.

A Kandahar policeman said many of the guests had links to local police officials or a local militia.

In the immediate aftermath, he said, some panicked guests mistakenly thought the party had been struck by an air raid.

Rural wedding parties in Afghanistan can often be raucous affairs with large gatherings of people and frequently accompanied by celebratory gunfire. Several have mistakenly been attacked in the past by foreign forces.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi denied his group was involved in the attack. U.S. military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the deaths were not the result of an airstrike.

A spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said it was aware of the blast and had helped local security forces in follow-up operations.

“This is an Afghan matter,” the spokeswoman said.

A local intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address such matters, said the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, sent a team to the scene of the blast to investigate.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan forces secured the area, officials said. The U.S. is planning a major offensive in Kandahar.

Wire services and CNN were used in compiling this report.