The terrorist group IS (Islamic State) has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on a gurdwara in Afghanistan's Kabul on Saturday in which two people were killed, including an Afghan Sikh national and a Taliban militant member.
The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the IS group, called the attack "an act of support" for the Prophet in a statement on its Amaq propaganda site. It said the attack targeted Hindus and Sikhs and the "apostates" who protected them in "an act of support for the Messenger of Allah".
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 gurdwara. 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 ISKP 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.
The 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) functionaries Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.
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 United Nations.
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 ISIS affiliate.
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 ISIS.
The ISKP formally emerged in 2015 and is a "province" in the global "caliphate" ISIS wants to create. It is pitched against the Taliban.
"ISKP has historically fought other jihadist groups—particularly the Taliban—to expand its market share in the militant ecosystem. This competition has been buttressed by a long-standing propaganda effort to brand the Taliban as nationalists with narrow parochial interests in Afghanistan—contrasted with ISKP’s global aims. This struggle is likely to continue, with ISKP attempting to brand itself as an uncompromising fighter and parlay that narrative into a recruiting tool," according to the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
(With PTI inputs)