Conflicts & War

Child killed as gunmen attack Sikh minority temple in Afghan capital

Kabul, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- A child was killed in a suicide attack on a Sikh religious complex in the Afghan capital on Wednesday when the temple was full of worshipers, an official said.

Health Ministry spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar told reporters that security forces have recovered a body of a child from the temple site during the attack that has also left 15 people wounded.

Interior ministry spokesperson Tariq Aryan told EFE that the attack began around 7:45 am when suicide attackers stormed into the sanctuary area of the temple complex in Shorbazar street of the central Kabul.

“The first floor of the temple is cleared and several trapped people rescued. Security forces are trying to rescue remaining trapped civilians,” Aryan said.

No insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attack on the religious complex belonging to a tiny Sikhs minority community in Afghanistan.

The Taliban militant group distanced itself from the attack.

“Today’s attack in Kabul city’s Shorbazar area has nothing to do with the mujahidin of the Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban fighters call themselves),” its spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter.

Religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country of Afghanistan have often come under the attack of Islamist extremist groups.

Suicide bombers of the Islamic State militant group in 2018 targeted a group of Sikh community and killed 19 people, including its leader Awtar Singh Khalsa, in Jalalabad.

Khalsa, who had announced his candidature for parliamentary elections, and other members of the Sikh community were in Jalalabad to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

More than four decades of armed conflict in Afghanistan has forced thousands of Hindus and Sikhs to seek refuge in other countries, especially India.

The violence and strong social and religious discrimination have drastically reduced the number of Sikhs in Afghanistan to around 1,500 from some 200,000 30 years ago.

The attack comes a day after the United States declared that it was cutting its aid to the Afghan government by $1 billion amid a political crisis between President Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah triggered by alleged fraud in last year’s presidential polls.

The political feud has delayed the formation of a government-sponsored team to negotiate with the Taliban for intra-Afghan peace talks which were scheduled to kick off by Mar. 10.

The US on Feb. 29 reached an agreement with the Taliban for a roadmap to pull out American troops from the war-ravaged country.

The plan was to start with the withdrawal of 8,600 soldiers within 135 days from the date of the signing of the deal. Currently, some 14,000 US troops remain deployed in the country.

However, the insurgents and the government remain deadlocked over an agreement regarding the swapping of prisoners, which was a part of the US-Taliban accord and considered crucial for the commencement of the intra-Afghan talks. EFE-EPA

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