Gunmen attack Sikh religious complex in Kabul, Afghan MP says

Unidentified gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a Sikh religious complex in the Afghan capital, Kabul on Wednesday, and up to 200 people are said to be imprisoned inside, an MP said.

Afghan security forces blocked and killed the attackers, and killed two, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian in a message to reporters.

“The majority of people have been rescued, unfortunately there are victims,” ​​he said, adding that the defense forces would take some time to fully secure the area as they moved slowly to avoid casualties. civilians.

It was not immediately known how many assailants there were or who they were.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said that one child had been killed and 15 injured, but that the toll could increase.

Sikhs have been the targets of attacks by Islamist activists previously in South Asia. A Taliban spokesperson, in a message on Twitter, denied responsibility for the attack.

Narender Singh Khalsa, an MP representing the tiny Sikh community, said he learned that four people were killed and up to 200 people trapped inside the temple during the morning attack.

“Three suicide bombers entered a dharamsala,” he said, referring to a shrine inside a temple.

“The gunmen started their attack at a time when the dharamsala was full of worshipers,” he said.

The attack comes a day after the United States announced it would cut government aid by $ 1 billion due to frustration that opposing political leaders could not reach an agreement and form a team to negotiate with the Taliban.

A NATO defense official Resolute Support said that the response to the attack had been led and executed by Afghan forces, but had received advice and assistance from NATO.

Small religious minority

Sikhs are a small religious minority in Afghanistan with less than 300 families. They are among the persecuted minorities eligible for citizenship in India under a citizenship law supported by the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has suffered a backlash because it does not include Muslims.

Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, Sikh community member and Afghan senator, said that the Sikh complex in Kabul contains places of worship and areas where families live.

“Armed men are scattered throughout the complex, there is the fear that the attackers have entered the main place of prayer and the fear of the great victims is there too,” he said.

Human rights activists condemned the attack. Amnesty International South Asia tweeted: “We are shocked and discouraged … the authorities have a responsibility to protect minorities and their places of worship in Afghanistan.”

In 2018, a suicide bombing attack targeting the Sikh community and claimed by the Islamic State militant group killed more than a dozen people in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

Last month, the United States reached an agreement with the Taliban on the withdrawal of international troops led by the United States, but the agreement does not include IS militants.