KABUL (Reuters) – Unidentified 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.
Sikhs have been the target of attack by Islamist militants before in South Asia. A Taliban spokesman, in a message on Twitter, denied responsibility for the attack.
Several hours after the early morning attack was launched, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a message to journalists an operation by the security forces was over and all of the attackers had been killed. He did not say how many.
The ministry later said 25 people who had been in the religious compound had been killed, eight wounded and 80 rescued.
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.
Narender Singh Khalsa, a member of parliament who represents the tiny Sikh community, said earlier he had reports that four people had been killed and up to 200 people had been trapped in the temple in the early morning 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,” he said.
An official with Afghanistan’s NATO mission said the response to the attack had been led and executed by Afghan forces but they had received some advice and assistance from NATO.
Afghanistan’s Sikh community numbers fewer than 300 families.
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.
Sikhs are among religious minorities eligible for citizenship in India under a controversial law introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
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 the Islamic State militant group killed more than a dozen people in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.
The United States last month struck a deal with the Taliban on the withdrawal of U.S.-led international troops but the agreement does not include Islamic State militants.
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