One dead as gunmen storm Sikh temple in Afghan capital

Published on: Amended:

Kabul (AFP) – Gunmen stormed a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least one member of the community and injuring seven others, the interior ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said the attackers threw at least one grenade when they entered the temple, sparking a fire in the complex.

Minutes later, a car bomb exploded in the area but caused no casualties, he added.

“One of our Sikh brothers was killed and seven others (were) injured in the attack,” Takor said in a statement.

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

While the number of bombings across Afghanistan has plummeted since the Taliban seized power in August, several deadly attacks have hit the country in recent months.

“I heard gunshots and explosions,” Gurnam Singh, a Sikh community leader, told AFP near the scene of Saturday’s attack shortly after the raid began.

“Usually at this time of the morning we have several Sikh worshipers coming to offer prayers at the gurdwara (temple complex).”

Footage posted to social media after the attack showed broken pillars and walls in the temple’s main prayer hall, with debris strewn across the floor.

Part of a building near the temple also caught fire, an AFP correspondent reported from the area.

The windows of several residential buildings were shattered by the impact of the car bomb. The surrounding streets were littered with broken glass.

Taliban forces cordoned off the area, preventing journalists from speaking to residents and witnesses.

Repeated attacks

A Taliban fighter deployed in the area told AFP that some Sikhs present in the temple at the time of the attack managed to escape through a back door.

Some of Kabul’s other Sikh temples were closed for security reasons as news of the attack spread.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the raid.

The attack came days after an Indian delegation visited Kabul to discuss the distribution of India’s humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

According to Afghan and Indian media, the delegation also discussed with Taliban officials the possibility of reopening the Indian embassy.

New Delhi, which had close ties with the previous US-backed Afghan government, closed its mission in Kabul and evacuated all diplomatic and other personnel when the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15.

India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar condemned Saturday’s “cowardly attack” on the temple in a tweet.

The number of Sikhs living in Afghanistan has fallen to around 200, from around half a million in the 1970s.

Most of those who remain are traders involved in the sale of herbal medicines and electronic products imported from India.

The community has faced repeated attacks over the years. At least 25 people were killed in March 2020 when gunmen stormed another Sikh temple in Kabul.

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

IS has a history of targeting Afghan Sikhs, Hindus and other members of minority communities, including Shia Muslims and Sufis.

A series of bomb attacks hit the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended in Afghanistan on April 30, some of them claimed by IS.

IS is a Sunni Islamist group, like the Taliban, but the two are bitter rivals.

The Taliban seek an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, while IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.