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Indian Embassy In Afghanistan Condemns Deadly Attack On Hindus, Sikhs

Awtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh, was killed in the July 1 attack in Afghanistan.
Awtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh, was killed in the July 1 attack in Afghanistan.

The Indian Embassy in Kabul has condemned the deadly attack by a suicide bomber that targeted a group of Hindus and Sikhs in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

"The attack underlines the need for a united global fight against international terrorism without discrimination and accountability of those who support terrorists in any manner," the Indian Embassy wrote on Twitter following the attack that killed at least 20 people on July 1.

Afghan officials said a suicide bomber targeted a group of Hindus and Sikhs on their way to meet the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who was visiting the provincial capital, Jalalabad.

Nangarhar health officials said that 17 of 20 dead in the attack are from the minority Hindu and Sikh community.

Embassy officials confirmed that Awtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community who had planned to run in the parliamentary elections set for October, was killed in the attack.

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The Islamic State (IS) extremist group, which is active in the area, claimed responsibility for the attack.

More than 20 people were injured and were receiving treatment in at a hospital in Jalalabad. Officials say some of the wounded are in critical condition.

Narendr Singh, a Sikh who was wounded in the attack, told the Associated Press by phone from the hospital that the attackers had targeted their convoy near the president's compound.

Afghanistan's tiny Hindu and Sikh minority has endured decades of discrimination in the war-torn country. Members have been targeted by Islamic extremists in the past.

The community numbered more than 80,000 in the 1970s, but today only around 1,000 remain in the predominantly Muslim nation.

Most have moved to India, which is considered their spiritual homeland.

Ghani's spokesman said the president was still in Nangarhar but was "away from danger." Ghani arrived in Nangarhar earlier on the day, with a two-day visit to the province.

RFE/RL correspondents in Jalalabad say police cordoned off the city center after the deadly attack. Officials said that several shops and vehicles caught fire in the aftermath of the blast.

It was the second attack reported in Nangarhar Province over a 24-hour period.

On June 30, militants targeted a boys school in Khogyani district, beheading three workers and setting fire to the school building.

The attacks come as Afghan forces were ordered to resume operations against Taliban fighters after Ghani announced an official end to the government's unilateral cease-fire.

Ghani declared an end to the truce, but he also called on the Taliban to resume peace negotiations. IS was not part of the cease-fire.

The cease-fire lasted 18 days in all, after it was extended once and coincided with a three-day Taliban truce.

U.S. envoy Alice Wells is visiting Kabul as part of efforts to raise pressure on the Taliban to enter peace talks.

Wells, who is scheduled to hold talks in Pakistan on July 2, said Islamabad must do more to pressure the Taliban and urge them to negotiate.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been fighting Taliban militants since they were driven from power in 2001. IS and other militants have also struck at Afghan and international targets, both government and civilian, in a campaign of terror.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, BBC, and The New York Times

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