Gunmen storm Sikh gurdwara in Afghanistan, killing 11 people
India condemns attack
Kabul: Heavily armed gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a Sikh gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 11 worshippers and wounding as many, in one of the deadliest attacks on the minority community in the country, according to a media report.
The gunmen attacked the gurdwara in Shor Bazar area at about 07:45 (local time) as 150 worshippers were inside the building.
“At least 11 people have been killed and 11 others wounded in attack at Dharamshala, a Sikh worship area in PD1 of Kabul,” Tolonews quoted a security source as saying.
“Three attackers are still fighting with security forces and one has been shot. Foreign troops have also responded to the attack on Dharamshala, a Sikh temple in PD1,” it said in a tweet.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to media reports.
The security forces have cordoned off the area, located in old Kabul, and are trying to counter the attack. They are locked in a continuing battle with the gunmen.
Police in Kabul said that at least 11 children were rescued from the gurdwara.
Sikh lawmaker Nardendar Singh Khalisa told reporters close to the scene that up to 150 people were praying inside the gurdwara when it came under attack.
“Afghan forces have cleared the first floor of a Sikh worship area in PD1 of Kabul, where suicide bombers are battling security forces,” Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian was quoted as saying in the report.
“A number of people have been rescued who were trapped inside the building,” he said.
Earlier, the country’s main militant group, the Taliban, denied involvement in the attack.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that the militant group had no link with the attack in Shor Bazar area of Kabul, Khama News agency reported.
War-torn Afghanistan is currently mired in a political stalemate with two politicians- Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah – both claiming victory in the presidential election.
The US, keen to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, has been trying to break the deadlock and also save a historic deal it signed with the Taliban militant group that is supposed to pave the way for peace in the country.
The attack comes a day after the US said it would cut its aid to the government by USD 1 billion over frustrations that the political leaders could not reach an agreement and form a team to negotiate with the Taliban.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Kabul on Tuesday in a bid to resolve a standoff between President Ghani and his rival Abdullah, who also proclaims himself president following a contested election.
Sikhs have been target of attacks by Islamist militants before in Afghanistan.
Two years ago, the Islamic State group targeted a Sikh gathering in Afghanistan, killing 19 people.
Meanwhile, India on Wednesday strongly condemned the terror attack on a gurdwara in Afghanistan’s Kabul, saying targeting of a religious place in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak reflects the “diabolical mindset” of the perpetrators and their backers.
The External Affairs Ministry said India conveyed its sincerest condolences to the immediate family members of the deceased and wished speedy recovery to the injured.
“India stands ready to extend all possible assistance to the affected families of the Hindu and Sikh community of Afghanistan,” it said.
“Such cowardly attacks on the places of religious worship of the minority community, especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic, is reflective of the diabolical mindset of the perpetrators and their backers,” the MEA said.
It said India stood in solidarity with the people, the government and the security forces of Afghanistan in their efforts for bringing peace and security to the country.
“We commend the brave Afghan security forces for their valorous response to the attack and their exemplary courage and dedication to protect the Afghan people and secure the country,” the MEA said.