Afghanistan: Deadly explosion rocks Sikh site in Kabul

By Leo Sands & Patrick Jackson
BBC News

  • Published
Taliban members secure the scene in Kabul, 18 JuneImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Taliban members secured the scene

An assault on a Sikh prayer site in Afghanistan has left one worshipper and a Taliban member dead as well as the unidentified attackers.

The site in the capital Kabul was hit by a bomb early in the morning when up to 30 people were inside.

It is the last remaining Sikh place of worship, or Gurdwara, in the capital.

Community leaders recently estimated that just 140 Sikhs remained in predominantly Muslim Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in the 1970s.

India, which is home to most of the world's Sikh population, said it was "deeply concerned" at news of the attack.

A local official at the scene, Gornam Singh, told Reuters news agency that the Taliban were not allowing Sikhs to enter the site after the attack.

Image source, Malik Mudassir/BBC
Image caption,
The attackers reportedly initially used hand grenades to try and enter the compound of the Gurdwara

TV footage showed grey plumes of smoke rising from the area.

A Taliban spokesman told Reuters news agency the attackers had attempted to drive a car laden with explosives into the area but they detonated before they reached their target.

The Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan last year, said a clearance operation was still under way although the attack had ended.

The BBC's Secunder Kermani was interviewing relatives of victims outside a hospital when two Taliban militants stopped his crew, trying to delete their footage.

Since the Taliban took power, the country has seen continuing attacks by rival Sunni Muslim militant group Islamic State:

A community struggling to leave

By Secunder Kermani, BBC Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent

Afghanistan once had a thriving Sikh and Hindu population, but years of conflict and instability saw the community drastically shrink in size.

By the time the Taliban took power last year, there were only fewer than 300 Sikhs left in Afghanistan.

They have been repeatedly attacked by the local branch of the Islamic State group, with suicide bombers targeting the community in major attacks in 2018 and 2020.

The Taliban had assured the community of their right to remain in Afghanistan and to practise their religion, but over the past year dozens more fled to India.

Speaking outside the Emergency Hospital in Kabul, where he had brought an injured relative, one Sikh man told us those the majority of those who remained in the country also wanted to leave, but had been struggling to secure visas.

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