JALALABAD - Insurgents shot dead nine wedding guests and wounded five more in Afghanistan's turbulent east, local officials said on Thursday, the latest attack on revellers who engage in what militants say is un-Islamic activity. Ahmadzia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said the guests were shot dead in their sleep late on Wednesday after the wedding party in the Dur Baba district on the border with Pakistan.
The groom, his father and cousins were among the dead, district chief Haji Hamesha Gul said, adding that some were also his own relatives.
They were sleeping outside, common among Afghans in the hot summer months, when the gunmen opened fire, he said. There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
The bodies of the nine dead were wrapped in white sheets and lined up under the blazing sun before their burial on Thursday, Reuters pictures showed. Scores of male villagers, many bearded and wearing turbans, gathered by them to pray.
A year ago a suicide bomber killed at least 40 people, a quarter of them children, at a wedding party in Afghanistan's south. Though the Taliban denied responsibility, they have made it clear they oppose music and dancing.
During their austere rule, which was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, the Taliban banned television and music as un-Islamic.
Also in the Nangarhar province two years ago, insurgents snatched five Afghan musicians from a wedding party, shaved their heads and tied them to a tree as punishment. The musicians were made to swear they would find other ways to make a living before they were released.
Violence is escalating in Afghanistan in the tenth year of an increasingly unpopular war. Afghan and foreign security forces, as well as government officials, are often targeted in attacks by insurgents.
The Taliban said last month they had begun their long-awaited "spring offensive" and senior U.S. commanders said they expected a significant spike in violence.
Despite the presence of up to 150,000 foreign troops, violence in Afghanistan hit its worse levels of the war last year, with record casualties on all sides. This year is following a similar trend.
Analysts say this is potentially worrying in the light of a gradual security transition by the NATO-led force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, which starts next month in seven areas.
That will coincide with a gradual U.S. troop drawdown, also pencilled in for July. NATO wants to hand over all security responsibilities to Afghans by the end of 2014. (Reuters)