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Suicide Attacker Targets Hindus, Sikhs In Eastern Afghanistan

FILE: An injured man is carried to a hospital after a car bomb in Jalalabad on June 17
FILE: An injured man is carried to a hospital after a car bomb in Jalalabad on June 17

Afghan officials say at least 19 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a group of Hindus and Sikhs on their way to meet the country’s president in the eastern province on Nangarhar.

Nangarhar health officials said that 17 out of 19 dead in the July 1 attack are from the minority Hindu and Sikh community.

Inamullah Miakhail, spokesman for the provincial hospital in Nangarhar, said that at least 10 of the 20 wounded were also from the same minority community.

They are receiving medical treatment in at a hospital in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, he added. Officials say some of the wounded are in critical condition.

Miakhail 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.

The group was invited to meet with President Ashraf Ghani, who was visiting Jalalabad on July 1, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor.

Nangarhar police chief Ghulam Sanayee Stanekzai said that the attacker targeted the group’s convoy on its way to the governor's compound at around 4 p.m. local time.

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

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State extremist group, which is active in the area.

RFE/RL correspondents in Jalalabad say police cordoned off the city center after the deadly attack.

Afghanistan's tiny Hindu and Sikh minority has endured decades of discrimination in the war-torn country. They 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.

In a separate incident in Afghanistan, at least 110 people have been hospitalized after drinking water from a river in the northern province of Parwan.

Abdul Khalil Farhangi, the head of the main hospital in Charakar, the provincial capital, said the symptoms included vomiting and headache. He said it was not yet clear what caused them to become ill.

Many people in rural Afghanistan don't have access to clean, running water.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa