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IS Affiliate Claims Sikh Temple Attack, Protections Urged For Afghan Minorities

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Taliban fighters stand guard at the site of an attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul on June 18.

A regional affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) militant group has claimed responsibility for an attack at a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital on June 18 that killed at least two people and injured seven.

Islamic State-Khorasan has lately increased its targeting of mosques and minorities across Afghanistan.

The group said via Telegram that the attack was a response to insults against the Prophet Muhammad, a possible reference to recent remarks by an Indian government spokeswoman that some Muslim-majority leaders have condemned.

Taliban-led government officials said one Sikh worshipper had been killed in the attack and one member of the Taliban forces killed during the clearing operation.

International observers have lamented the lack of security for Afghanistan's Sikh, Sufi, and Hazara minorities.

The UN special rapporteur on Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, "strongly condemned" the attack and another recent attack on a Sufi temple and urged action to stop the recent "systematic attacks on religious minorities in Afghanistan" including "documentation, investigation and accountability."

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, European Union, and Indian government all condemned the attack.

A Sikh man who lives near the temple that was attacked told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi: “If we cannot live in Afghanistan, then they should tell us; they should give us the opportunity so we can go some other country, or I want the United Nations to give us an island so that we create our own country, without being with Muslims, neither with Hindus nor with Christians.”

Around 30 worshippers were said to have been inside the temple, or gurdwara, when a car packed with explosives exploded nearby. Officials said gunmen also lobbed at least one grenade. A video circulating showed a plume of smoke rising from the building.

Abdul Nafi Takur, a spokesman for the Taliban Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the car detonated before reaching its target.

Taliban forces said later they had taken control of the area and cleared it of attackers.

The hard-line Sunni Taliban group has led an unrecognized government in Kabul since mid-August, when U.S.-led forces withdrew and the UN-backed Afghan government crumbled as Taliban fighters captured most of the country.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP
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    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi

    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi is one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.

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