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IS claims attack on Sikh temple in Kabul

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Sikh temple in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul that killed at least one worshipper and wounded seven others.

IS made the claim in a statement posted on its Amaq website late on Saturday. It said the assault on “the Sikh and Hindu temple” was in response to insults made against Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the central figure of the Islamic religion, by an Indian government official. It did not name the official.

Gunmen attacked the Sikh house of worship, known as a gurdwara on Saturday morning and a firefight between the attackers and Taleban fighters seeking to protect the building ensued, Afghan officials said.

A vehicle filled with explosives was detonated outside of the temple but that resulted in no casualties. Before that, the gunmen threw a hand grenade which caused a fire near the temple’s gate, the officials said

The IS said a member of the group Abu Mohammed al-Tajiki stormed the temple after killing the guard and then targetted the people inside with machine-gun fire and hand grenades. IS fighters outside the temple detonated four explosive devices and a car bomb targetting patrols of Taleban militia who tried to protect the temple. The battle ended after three hours, the Amaq report said.

Taleban fighters stand guard in front of a Sikh temple following an attack by gunmen in Kabul. PHOTO: AFP

The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organisation based in the United States (US), said the gurdwara was significantly damaged by the attack.

“The recurring tragic violence targetting the Afghan Sikh community is devastating, but also entirely predictable and preventable,” said group’s executive director Anisha Singh in a statement.

“The international community, and in particular the United States, continues to fall short of urgently-needed efforts to protect and safely resettle all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.”

Videos posted on social media showed plumes of black smoke rising from the temple in Kabul’s Bagh-e Bala neighbourhood and gunfire could be heard.

Kabul police said a police operation ended after the last attacker was killed several hours after the assault began. They said one Sikh was killed and seven others were wounded in the attack and a Taleban security force was killed during the rescue operation. It was unclear how many IS militants were involved or how many were killed in the gunbattle with the Taleban.

Earlier this month, Indian officials held talks with the Taleban in Kabul for the first time since the group took control of the country last year on the distribution of humanitarian aid. The Indian delegation was led by Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry J P Singh.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Singh was the “Hindu” the IS referred to in its statement on Saturday or what comments he might have made that provoked the IS attack.