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Islamic State claims Sikh temple attack in Afghanistan

Terror group's Kabul attack follows outrage over BJP official's comments about Prophet Muhammad
A Taliban fighter stands guard in front of a Sikh temple following an attack by gunmen in Kabul on June 18

A Taliban fighter stands guard in front of a Sikh temple following an attack by gunmen in Kabul on June 18. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 20, 2022 05:33 AM GMT
Updated: June 20, 2022 05:42 AM GMT

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Sikh temple in Afghanistan that killed one community member and a Taliban fighter, saying it was retaliation for insults against the Prophet Muhammad.

Protests in several Muslim countries were sparked by comments this month by a spokeswoman for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) about the relationship between the prophet and his youngest wife.

In a message posted on its Amaq propaganda site, the Islamic State group said the June 18 attack targeted Hindus and Sikhs and the "apostates" who protected them in "an act of support for the Messenger of Allah."

It said one of its fighters "penetrated a temple for Hindu and Sikh polytheists in Kabul, after killing its guard, and opened fire on the pagans inside with his machine gun and hand grenades." Two were killed and at least seven others wounded in the raid.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said the attackers lobbed at least one grenade when they entered the temple, setting off a blaze.

The attack follows a visit by an Indian delegation to Kabul to discuss the distribution of humanitarian aid from India to Afghanistan.

While the Islamic State is a Sunni Islamist group like the Taliban, the two are bitter rivals and greatly diverge on ideological grounds

Afghan and Indian media reports said the delegation discussed with Taliban officials the possibility of reopening the Indian embassy, which shut after the Islamists seized power in August last year.

The number of bombings across Afghanistan has dropped since the Taliban returned to power, but several attacks — many targeting minority communities — have rocked the country in recent months, including several claimed by IS.

While the Islamic State is a Sunni Islamist group like the Taliban, the two are bitter rivals and greatly diverge on ideological grounds.

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.

In recent months, many impoverished Sikhs including women and children took refuge in the complex that was attacked on June 18.

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 in an attack that was also claimed by the Islamic State.

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