The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deadly terror attack on a gurdwara here in Afghanistan that killed two persons, including one Sikh community member, calling it “an act of support” for the Prophet. In a statement posted on its Amaq propaganda site, the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State militant group, said the attack on Saturday targeted Hindus and Sikhs and the “apostates” who protected them in “an act of support for the Messenger of Allah”.
The dreaded terror group said one of its fighters “penetrated a temple for Hindu and Sikh polytheists” in Kabul, after killing the guard, and opened fire on the worshippers inside with his machine gun and hand grenades.
Several blasts tore through Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul’s Bagh-e Bala neighbourhood on Saturday while Afghan security personnel thwarted a bigger tragedy by stopping an explosive-laden vehicle from reaching the place of worship of the minority community in the war-torn country.
It was the latest targeted assault on a place of worship of the Sikh community in Afghanistan. The three attackers were killed by the Taliban forces. The terror attack on the gurdwara came days after the ISKP in a video message warned of an attack against Hindus to avenge the remarks against Prophet Mohammad by two former BJP functionaries. In the past too, the ISKP has claimed responsibility for attacks on places of worship of Hindus, Sikhs and Shiites in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the attack on the gurdwara in Kabul drew severe criticism from Afghan leaders and the UN. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and called it a “terrorist incident.” Abdullah Abdullah, former chairman of the Afghan High Council National Reconciliation, also condemned the attack.
“I strongly condemn…heinous and cowardly terrorist attack on our Sikh community Gurdwara in Karta-e Parwan,” Tolo news quoted Abdullah Abdullah as saying.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Twitter said it “strongly condemns today’s attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul.” “Attacks on civilians must cease immediately,” the UNAMA said and called for the protection of all minorities in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was once home to tens of thousands of Sikhs and Hindus, but decades of conflict have seen the number dwindle to a tiny handful. In recent years, those who have remained have been repeatedly targeted by the local branch of the Islamic State (IS) militant group. In 2018, a suicide bomber struck a gathering in the eastern city of Jalalabad, whilst another gurdwara was attacked in 2020.
“At the time of the attack in Jalalabad, there were around 1,500 Sikhs, after that people thought, ‘We can’t live here’,” Sukhbir Singh Khalsa told BBC.
More left after the attack in 2020, he added, and by the time the Taliban took power last year, there were less than 300 Sikhs. Now there are just around 150.
“All our historical gurdwaras have been martyred already, and now the only one that was left has been, too,” he said. Since the Taliban took power in August last year, Afghanistan has seen continuing attacks by rival Sunni Muslim militant group Islamic State.