HASAKEH, Syria (AFP) - A suicide bomber has struck a wedding in north-east Syria as the bride and groom were exchanging vows, killing 34 people and wounding dozens, the local Kurdish government said.
The bomber blew himself up late on Monday (Oct 3) in the village of Tall Tawil, in Hasakeh province, where a Kurdish party official was getting married.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed the attack, saying that one of its fighters had fired on a gathering near Hasakeh city before blowing himself up, though it did not mention a wedding.
Rows of seats in the hall that hosted the party were still covered in blood on Tuesday (Oct 4) morning when an AFP photographer visited the scene.
Broken tiles littered the floor and torn fabric hung from the ceiling. A thick layer of dust covered a sound mixer and keyboard.
"As the bride and groom were exchanging their vows, I saw a man wearing a thick black jacket pass beside me," a witness named Ahmad said.
"I thought he looked strange and a few seconds later, there was an enormous explosion. People had fallen on the ground and I saw bodies torn to bits."
Wedding photographer Walid Mohammad said he was taking pictures of the party when he felt a huge explosion. "I saw so many people die - small kids, old people."
The local Kurdish adminstration said 34 people had been killed and around 90 wounded, among them women and children.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor that relies on a network of sources inside the country, gave a higher toll of 36 dead, including 11 children.
Both the groom and bride were safe, but the groom's father and brother were killed in the attack, a relative said.
"The groom's wounds are light, and he and his new wife are staying at a relative's home. He doesn't want to see anyone," he said. "They are really shaken up by this."
Mr Mohamed Kassar, a wedding singer, struggled to hold back tears as he described the aftermath of the attack.
"I'm still in shock. They were children and women," he said.
At a local hospital, the injured crowded the halls, with a woman in a sparkly gold party dress gripping the rails of a staircase, her face pale.
The groom, Mr Zaradesht Mustafa Fatimi, hails from a prominent family deeply involved in the autonomous administration run by Kurdish factions in Syria's north.
According to an official from the autonomous administration, Mr Fatimi works for a local Kurdish party.
The Observatory said he is also a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an Arab-Kurdish coalition battling ISIS in northern Syria.
Hasakeh city is almost entirely held by Kurdish forces, but Syria's regime still holds some districts.
The city has often been hit by ISIS, which said the target of Monday's attack had been Kurdish fighters.