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By Shafaat Khan, Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: A crowded Sikh temple and housing complex in Kabul was attacked on Wednesday, killing at least 25 people in a six-hour siege just as Afghanistan is starting to struggle with the global corona virus contagion. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted by the group’s media arm, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks the online postings of Islamist militant organizations.
The lone gunman began firing on worshipers during a Wednesday morning at the temple in a congested part of the Afghan capital. An interior ministry spokesman said the shooting was the first such attack on a house of worship used by Sikh minorities in Kabul.
Although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared that the Islamic State was defeated late last year, officials estimated Islamic State fighters scattered across the country number in the hundreds. The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack Wednesday. After signing a peace deal with the United States last month, the group has been under pressure to reduce violence and enter into talks with the Afghan government. But the Islamic State is allied with neither the government nor the Taliban and has continued its attacks.
Several ambulances were seen rushing to the site and evacuating the wounded. U.S.-led coalition troops were also dispatched to the scene to support Afghan security forces.
“The attack on the religious sites shows the extreme weakness of the enemy,” Ghani said in a statement. “Religious sites should not be vulnerable to attacks and violence.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul condemned the attack in a tweet.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for an attack earlier this month that killed dozens of civilians gathered at a commemoration ceremony for a slain leader of the Hazara ethnic group, who are largely followers of the Shiite sect of Islam.
Prominent Sikh leaders were also killed in an Islamic State suicide attack in 2018 in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
Hindus and Sikhs, once numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the country, are oppressed minorities who have been frequently attacked in recent years. Only a couple hundred Hindu and Sikh families remain in Afghanistan, with the rest migrating to India or the West over the past four decades.
By Shafaat Khan,
Edited by Adam Rizvi, Compiled by Arisha R.