The Islamic State claims attacks on the Sikh temple in Kabul that killed two

KABUL, June 18 (Reuters) – An Islamic State attack on a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday killed at least two people and wounded seven, officials said, another deadly incident in a wave of violence against minorities and places of worship.

On an affiliated Telegram channel, the local branch of Islamic State said the attack was in response to insults directed at the Prophet Mohammed, an apparent reference to statements by a spokeswoman for the Indian government who have been condemned by many Muslim-majority countries. read more

Gray smoke rolled over the area on photos sent by the domestic broadcaster Tolo. A Taliban spokesman said the attackers had loaded a car with explosives, but that it had detonated before reaching the target.

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A temple official, Gornam Singh, said there were about 30 people inside the building at the time.

A spokesman for Kabul’s commander said a Sikh worshiper was killed in the attack and a Taliban fighter was killed as his forces took control of the area.

Since seizing power in August, the Taliban have said they have increased security in Afghanistan and removed the country from militant threats, although international officials and analysts say the risk of a resurgence of militancy remains.

The Islamic State has claimed some attacks in recent months.

The group said a suicide bomber stormed the temple on Saturday morning armed with a machine gun and grenades after killing the guard.

Other militants fought for more than three hours with Taliban fighters trying to intervene to protect the temple, charging them with four explosive devices and a car bomb, the militant group said.

The blast on Saturday was widely condemned as one of a series of attacks on minorities, with a statement from neighboring Pakistan saying the government was “seriously concerned about the recent wave of terrorist attacks in places of worship in Afghanistan.”

The UN mission to Afghanistan said in a statement that minorities in the country must be protected, and Indian President Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he was “shocked” by the attack.

Sikhs are a small religious minority in mostly Muslim Afghanistan, and consist of about 300 families before the country fell to the Taliban. Many have left the site, according to members of society and the media.

Like other religious minorities, Sikhs have been a continuous target of violence in Afghanistan. An attack on another temple in Kabul in 2020 that killed 25 was also claimed by the Islamic State.

Saturday’s explosion followed an explosion in a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz the day before that killed one person and injured two, according to authorities.

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Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Further reporting by Enas Alashray in Cairo; Written by Charlotte Greenfield and Mahmoud Mourad; Edited by William Mallard, Clarence Fernandez, Clelia Oziel and Daniel Wallis

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