The Islamic State calls for an attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul that killed two people

KABUL, June 18 (Reuters) – An attack alleged by the Islamic State 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 against minorities and places of worship.

On an associated Telegram channel, the local branch of Islamic State said the attack was in response to insults to the Prophet Mohammed, an apparent reference to statements by an Indian government spokeswoman that have been condemned by many Muslim-majority countries. Continue reading

Gray smoke billowed over the area in images broadcast by domestic broadcaster Tolo. A Taliban interior spokesman said the attackers loaded a car with explosives but it detonated before it reached its destination.

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A temple official, Gornam Singh, said there were about 30 people in the building at the time.

A spokesman for the Kabul commander said a Sikh worshiper was killed in the attack and a Taliban militant was killed when his troops took control of the area.

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

The Islamic State has reported a number of attacks in recent months.

The group said a suicide bomber stormed the temple on Saturday morning, armed with a machine gun and hand grenades, after killing its guard.

Other militants fought for more than three hours with Taliban fighters trying to intervene to protect the temple, targeting them with four IEDs and a car bomb, the militant group said.

Saturday’s blast was widely condemned as one of several attacks on minorities, with neighboring Pakistan saying in a statement its government was “seriously concerned by the recent spate of terrorist attacks on places of worship in Afghanistan”.

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

Sikhs are a tiny religious minority in largely Muslim Afghanistan that numbered about 300 families before the country fell to the Taliban. According to members of the community and the media, many have since left.

Like other religious minorities, Sikhs are a constant target of violence in Afghanistan. An attack on another temple in Kabul in 2020 that killed 25 people was also claimed by Islamic State.

Saturday’s blast followed a blast at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz the previous day, which authorities said killed one and injured two.

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Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Additional reporting by Enas Alashray in Cairo; letters from Charlotte Greenfield and Mahmoud Mourad; Edited by William Mallard, Clarence Fernandez, Clelia Oziel and Daniel Wallis

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