The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

21 killed in gun battle at wedding in northern Afghanistan

A gun battle between supporters of two rival warlords killed 21 people at a wedding party in Afghanistan's northern Baghlan province, police said Monday.

The violence occurred overnight in a village in the rugged Andarab district, where warlords hold far more sway than police, Baghlan’s police chief said.

“An argument between irresponsible armed forces [warlord factions] sparked the gun battle at the wedding. It resulted in the killing of 21 people and wounding of eight others,” Abdul Jabar Pordeli, Baghlan police chief, said by phone.

Two children and several fighters from the warring sides were among the dead, Pordeli said, but the bride and the groom were safe.

Hundreds of people had gathered for the wedding, he said.

The warlords of Afghanistan

Warlords pose a serious threat to the stability of President Ashraf Ghani’s U.S.-backed government, which is battling Taliban insurgents.

The two armed groups involved in the Baghlan gun battle have a history of feuding that dates to Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in late 1970s.

Tens of thousands of Afghans died during years of fighting among mujahideen factions, which were led by warlords, after the withdrawal of the Soviets from the country.

For many years, certain mujahideen factions dominated the government of Hamid Karzai, who led the country for more than a decade after the Taliban’s ouster in 2001 by U.S.-backed forces.

Afghanistan’s defining fight: Technocrats vs. strongmen

Since Ghani became president last year, the influence of these factions on the central government has diminished, but some of them still rule the provinces and challenge his authority.

“In Andarab, the amount of arms and types of weapons these commanders own are far better in terms of quality and in quantity,” Pordeli said.

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