Afghanistan: Gunmen storm Sikh temple in Kabul | Afghanistan

Gunmen stormed a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital, killing at least one member of the community and wounding seven others, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry’s spokesman, Abdul Nafi Takor, said the attackers used at least one grenade during the attack on Saturday, triggering a fire in the complex. Minutes later, a car bomb was detonated in the area, but did not cause any injuries, he added.

“One of our Sikh brothers has been killed and seven others [were] wounded in the attack, Takor said in a statement.

Two of the attackers were killed in an operation to secure the temple after the raid, he said, and a Taliban fighter was also killed.

The number of bombings has dropped across the country since the Taliban seized power in August, but there have been several deadly attacks in recent months.

“I heard gunshots and explosions coming from gurdwara,” said Gurnam Singh, a Sikh community leader.

Singh, who was near the scene, said the number of victims could rise. “Generally at that time in the morning we have several Sikh followers who come to hold prayers at gurdwara,” he said.

Footage posted on social media after the attack showed broken pillars and walls in the temple’s main prayer hall, with debris scattered across the floor. Part of a building near the temple also caught fire, a correspondent from Agence France-Presse reported from the area.

The windows of several residential buildings were shattered by the impact of the car bomb, and the streets nearby were strewn with broken glass. Taliban forces cordoned off the neighborhood and prevented journalists from talking to residents or witnesses.

A Taliban fighter deployed in the area said that some Sikhs in the temple at the time of the attack managed to escape from a back door. Some of Kabul’s other Sikh temples were closed for security reasons as reports of the attack spread.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which came days after an Indian delegation visited Kabul to discuss the distribution of humanitarian aid from India to Afghanistan.

Afghan and Indian media reports said the delegation also discussed the possibility of reopening the Indian embassy with Taliban officials.

Delhi, which had close ties with the previous US-backed Afghan government, closed its mission in Kabul and evacuated all its diplomats and other staff when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on August 15 last year.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar condemned Saturday’s “cowardly attack” on the temple.

The number of Sikhs living in Afghanistan has dropped to around 200 compared to around half a million in the 1970s.

Society has faced repeated attacks. At least 25 people were killed in March 2020 when gunmen stormed a temple.

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The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which forced many Sikhs to leave the country even before the Taliban returned to power.

The jihadist group has a history of targeting Afghan Sikhs, Hindus and members of other minority communities, including Shia and Sufi Muslims.

It claimed responsibility for some of a series of bombings during Ramadan, which ended in Afghanistan on April 30.

The deadliest was in the northern city of Kunduz, where a bomb aimed at Sufi worshipers killed at least 36 people at a mosque.

Like the Taliban, the Islamic State is a Sunni Islamist group, but the two are bitter rivals.

The Taliban has pursued an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, while the Islamic State wants a caliphate that stretches from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond. Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated the group, but analysts say it remains an important security challenge.