At­tack kills at least 25 at Sikh tem­ple

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Mu­jib Mashal and Fahim Abed Mu­jib Mashal and Fahim Abed are New York Times writ­ers.

KABUL — Mil­i­tants stormed a crowded Sikh tem­ple and hous­ing com­plex in Kabul on Wed­nes­day, killing at least 25 peo­ple in a six­hour siege just as war­rav­aged Afghanista­n is start­ing to strug­gle with the global coro­n­avirus con­ta­gion.

The at­tack­ers, be­lieved to be Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists, struck on a day when na­tion­wide cases of the virus nearly dou­bled from 24 hours ear­lier. Of­fi­cials feared the ac­tual spread is even wider.

The western city of Herat, with roughly 4 mil­lion res­i­dents, re­ported 58 pos­i­tive cases and was put un­der lock­down. The area shares a por­ous bor­der with Iran, where the con­ta­gion has been es­pe­cially se­vere.

Af­ter the at­tack in Kabul, po­lice cor­doned off the area, and spe­cial forces of­fi­cers wore pro­tec­tive masks to guard against coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion.

The at­tack be­gan when a heav­ily armed mil­i­tant en­tered a com­plex that houses dozens of families from the Sikh re­li­gious mi­nor­ity and con­tains a tem­ple.

Ah­mad Tariq Arian, the In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman, said that eight civil­ians were wounded and 80 hostages were res­cued. Pho­tos provided by se­cu­rity of­fi­cials showed a large num­ber of cry­ing chil­dren among the civil­ians res­cued.

Anarkali Kaur Honar­yar, a mem­ber of the Afghan se­nate who had been in­side the com­plex help­ing load bod­ies into am­bu­lances, said only one of those killed was a Mus­lim, who was guard­ing the tem­ple. The rest were Sikhs, she said, in­clud­ing sev­eral women and one child.

Is­lamic State loy­al­ists claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to the SITE In­tel­li­gence Group, which mon­i­tors mil­i­tant me­dia sites. Once wag­ing fre­quent deadly at­tacks against vul­ner­a­ble tar­gets in Afghanista­n’s ur­ban cen­ters, the Is­lamic State has shrunk in size be­cause of sus­tained mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions by Afghan and Amer­i­can forces as well as hos­til­ity from Tal­iban in­sur­gents, who view Is­lamic State mil­i­tants as tres­passers on their turf.

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 of hun­dred Hindu and Sikh families re­main in Afghanista­n, with the rest mi­grat­ing to In­dia or the West over the past four decades.

Most at­tacks around the coun­try are waged by the Tal­iban, who con­tinue to em­brace vi­o­lence as lever­age de­spite sign­ing a peace deal with the United States that has been ex­pected to lower the blood­shed in Afghanista­n as the par­ties con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions for a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment.

Rahmat Gul / As­so­ci­ated Press

Fam­ily mem­bers mourn af­ter gun­men stormed a re­li­gious gath­er­ing of Sikhs in Kabul, killing dozens and wound­ing at least eight oth­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.