25 killed as Islamic State gunman takes hostages in Kabul Sikh temple

Reuters
Afghan security forces inspect near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan March 25, 2020.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail - Reuters

At least 25 worshippers at a Sikh religious complex in the Afghan capital of Kabul were shot dead when a lone Islamic State group gunman rampaged through temple.

The attacker held hostages and battled Afghan security forces as they tried to clear the building alongside British troops.

At one point some 200 people were feared to be trapped and when the incident came to an end the ministry of interior said at least 25 people inside the temple had been killed, including at least one child.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant postings and groups, said IS claimed responsibility for the attack on the group's Aamaq media arm.

At a Kabul hospital, Mohan Singh, who was in the Gurdwara when the attack began, said he first heard the sound of gunshots and ran for cover under a table.

Later he heard the sounds of explosions, adding that he believes they were hand grenades. He was injured when parts of the ceiling fell on him.

In photographs shared by the Interior Ministry, about a dozen children were seen being rushed out of the Gurdwara by Afghan special forces, many of them barefoot and crying.

Earlier, as the news of the attack broke, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed tweeted that the Taliban were not involved. Earlier this month, Afghanistan's IS affiliate struck a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims in Kabul, killing 32 people.

Sikhs have suffered widespread discrimination in the conservative Muslim country and have also been targeted by Islamic extremists. Under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, they were asked to identify themselves by wearing yellow armbands, but the rule was not enforced.

In recent years, large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus have sought asylum in India, which has a Hindu majority and a large Sikh population.

In July 2018, a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus was attacked by an Islamic State suicide bomber as they were on their way to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. Nineteen people were killed in that attack.

 

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Sikhs are a small religious minority in Afghanistan with numbers fewer than 300 families.

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.