Kabul – Gunmen stormed a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least one member of the community and wounding seven more, the interior ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said the attackers lobbed at least one grenade when they entered the temple, setting off a blaze in the complex.
Minutes later, a car bomb was detonated in the area but caused no casualties, he added.
“One of our Sikh brothers has been killed and seven others (were) wounded in the attack,” Takor said in a statement.
Two attackers were killed in an operation to secure the temple following the raid, he said, with one Taliban fighter also killed.
While the number of bombings across Afghanistan has dropped since the Taliban seized power in August, several fatal attacks have hit the country in recent months.
“I heard gunshots and blasts,” Gurnam Singh, a Sikh community leader, told AFP from close to the scene of Saturday’s attack soon after the raid began.
“Generally at that time in the morning we have several Sikh devotees who come to offer prayers at the gurdwara (temple complex).”
Footage posted on social media after the attack showed shattered pillars and walls in the temple’s main prayer hall, with debris scattered across the floor.
A section of a building near the temple also caught fire, an AFP correspondent reported from the area.
The windows of several residential buildings were broken from the impact of the car bomb. Nearby streets were littered with shattered glass.
Taliban forces cordoned off the neighbourhood, preventing journalists from speaking with residents and witnesses.
– Repeated attacks –
A Taliban fighter deployed in the area told AFP that some Sikhs in the temple at the time of the attack managed to flee from a back door.
Some of Kabul’s other Sikh temples were closed for security reasons as reports of the attack spread.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid.
The attack came days after an Indian delegation visited Kabul to discuss the distribution of humanitarian aid from India to Afghanistan.
Afghan and Indian media reports said the delegation also discussed with Taliban officials the possibility of reopening the Indian embassy.
New Delhi, which had close relations with the previous US-backed Afghan government, shut its mission in Kabul and evacuated all its diplomatic and other staff when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on August 15.
Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in a tweet condemned Saturday’s “cowardly attack” on the temple.
The number of Sikhs living in Afghanistan has dwindled to around 200, compared to about half a million in the 1970s.
Most of those who remain are traders involved in selling herbal medicines and electronic goods brought from India.
The community has faced repeated attacks over the years. At least 25 people were killed in March 2020 when gunmen stormed another Sikh temple in Kabul.
The jihadist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, which forced many Sikhs to leave the country even before the Taliban returned to power.
IS has a history of targeting Afghan Sikhs, Hindus and other members of minority communities — including Muslim Shiites and Sufis.
A string of bombings hit the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended in Afghanistan on April 30, some of them claimed by IS.
IS is a Sunni Islamist group, like the Taliban, but the two are bitter rivals.
The Taliban have pursued an Afghanistan free from foreign forces, whereas IS want an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.