At least 26 people were killed and at least 45 were wounded when a rocket struck a wedding party in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province late Wednesday, officials told news outlets. The rocket was fired during ongoing fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan forces and mostly struck women and children, according to Al Jazeera.
The attack came on the last official day of the U.S. military and NATO's 13-year combat presence in Afghanistan, which began in the wake of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Afghan military will now take over the nation's security amid continuing bloody conflict in several regions.
This year saw about 5,000 Afghan soldiers and police and 10,000 civilians killed or wounded, the highest toll since the United Nations started tallying such records in 2008, according to the Associated Press.
The rocket attack caused extensive losses for the family of the wedding party, according to Abdul Haleem, a cousin of the bride, who was the host of her wedding.
"Nine children of mine are missing; I just collected body parts," he said, according to the Telegraph. "I don't know whether it's my children or someone else's."
Fareed Ahmad Obaid, a spokesman for the Afghan police, said at least 45 people were wounded in the attack, while provincial council member Bashir Ahmad Shakir said as many as 30 people may have died and 60 may have been wounded.
The attack comes on the heels of a massacre Dec. 16 by the Taliban at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, that left more than 140 people, mostly children, dead and reminded the world of the ongoing threat posed by extremist factions in the region.