Attack on Sikh temple in Afghanistan’s capital kills two

KABUL, June 18 (Reuters) – An attack on a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Saturday killed at least two people and injured seven officials said, another deadly incident in a spate of violence targeting minorities and places of worship.

Gray smoke billowed over the area in images aired by domestic broadcaster Tolo. A Taliban interior spokesman said attackers had laden a car with explosives but it had detonated before reaching its target.

“There were around 30 people inside the temple,” said a temple official, Gornam Singh. “We don’t know how many of them are alive or how many dead.”

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A spokesman for Kabul’s commander said his forces had taken control of the area and cleared it of attackers. One Sikh worshiper had been killed in the attack and one Taliban fighter killed during the clearing operation, he added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Since taking power in August, the Taliban say they have increased security in Afghanistan and removed the country from militant threats, although international officials and analysts say the risk of a resurgence in militancy remains.

The Islamic State militant group has claimed some attacks in recent months.

The blast on Saturday was widely condemned as one of a series of attacks targeting minorities, with a statement from neighboring Pakistan saying its government was “seriously concerned at the recent spate of terrorist attacks on places of worship in Afghanistan.”

The UN’s mission to Afghanistan said in a statement that minorities in the country needed to be protected and India’s President Narendra Modi said on Twitter he was “shocked” by attack.

Sikhs are a tiny religious minority in largely Muslim Afghanistan, comprising about 300 families before the country fell to the Taliban. But many left afterwards, say members of the community and media.

Like other religious minorities, Sikhs have been a continuous target of violence in Afghanistan. An attack at another temple in Kabul in 2020 that killed 25 was claimed by Islamic State.

Saturday’s explosion follows a blast at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz the previous day that killed one person and injured two, according to authorities.

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Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by William Mallard, Clarence Fernandez and Clelia Oziel

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