Afghanistan: gunmen storm Sikh temple in Kabul | Afghanistan

Gunmen have stormed a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital, killing at least one member of the community and wounding seven more, the interior ministry said.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Abdul Nafi Takor, said the attackers used at least one grenade during the attack on Saturday, setting off a blaze in the complex. Minutes later, a car bomb was detonated in the area but caused no casualties, 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 following the raid, he said, with one Taliban fighter also killed.

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

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

Singh, who was close to the scene, said the number of casualties could rise. “Generally at that time in the morning we have several Sikh devotees who come to offer prayers at the gurdwara,” he said.

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

The windows of several residential buildings were broken by the impact of the car bomb, and nearby streets were littered with shattered glass. Taliban forces cordoned off the neighbourhood, preventing journalists from speaking to residents or witnesses.

A Taliban fighter deployed in the area said some Sikhs in the temple at the time of the attack managed to flee 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 relations with the previous, US-backed Afghan government, shut its mission in Kabul and evacuated all its diplomatic and other staff when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on 15 August last year.

The Indian foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, condemned Saturday’s “cowardly attack” on the temple.

The number of Sikhs living in Afghanistan has dwindled to about 200 compared with about half a million in the 1970s.

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

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Islamic State claimed responsibility for that 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 string of bombings during Ramadan, which ended in Afghanistan on 30 April.

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

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

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

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