Gunmen in Afghanistan kill 25 at Sikh complex, Islamic State claims responsibility
March 25 2020 10:13 AM
Afghan security personnel stand guard near the site of an attack to a Sikh temple in Kabul
Afghan security personnel stand guard near the site of an attack to a Sikh temple in Kabul


* Ministry says 25 killed, eight wounded, 80 rescued

* Taliban denies involvement, Islamic State claims

* Sikh community in Afghanistan fewer than 300 families

Gunmen and suicide bombers raided a Sikh religious complex in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday, killing 25 people before security forces killed all of the attackers, the government said.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. Sikhs have been the target of attack by religious militants before in South Asia. Their community in Afghanistan numbers fewer than 300 families.

Several hours after the early morning attack was launched, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said an operation by the security forces was over and all of the attackers had been killed. He did not say how many.

The ministry said 25 people who had been in the religious compound had been killed, eight wounded and 80 rescued.

Narender Singh Khalsa, a member of parliament who represents the tiny Sikh community, said he had had reports that up to 200 people had been trapped in the temple during the attack.

"Three suicide bombers entered a dharamsala," he said, referring to a sanctuary area in a temple compound. "The gunmen started their attack at a time when the dharamsala was full of worshippers."

Outside, families gathered and women cried as they waited to find out the fate of their relatives.

In the late 1980s, there were about 500,000 Sikhs scattered across Afghanistan, many from families that had been there for generations, but most fled after years of civil war and the rise of the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman, in a message on Twitter, denied responsibility for the attack.

Human rights activists and countries including the United States, India and Pakistan condemned the attack.

"We are shocked and disheartened ... the authorities have a responsibility to protect minorities and their places of worship in Afghanistan," Amnesty International South Asia said on Twitter.

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

The attack comes a day after the United States said it would cut aid to the government by $1 billion over frustrations that feuding political leaders could not reach agreement and form a team to negotiate with the Taliban.

Last updated: March 25 2020 02:56 PM

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