Child killed as gunmen attack Gurudwara in Kabul

Kabul, March 25 A child was killed in a suicide attack on a Gurudwara in Kabul on Wednesday when the Sikh shrine was full of worshippers, an official said.

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Health Ministry spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar told reporters that security forces have recovered the body of a child from the Gurudwara during the attack that has also left 15 people injured, Efe news reported.

Interior ministry spokesperson Tariq Aryan told Efe that the attack began around 7.45 a.m. (local time) when the suicide attackers stormed into the sanctuary area of the shrine complex on Shorbazar street in central Kabul.

"The first floor of the temple is cleared and several trapped people rescued. Security forces are trying to rescue remaining trapped civilians," Aryan said.

No insurgent group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the religious complex belonging to a tiny Sikh minority community in Afghanistan.

The Taliban militant group distanced itself from the attack.

"Today's attack in Kabul city's Shorbazar area has nothing to do with the mujahidin of the Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban fighters call themselves)," its spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter.

Religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country of Afghanistan have often come under attack from Islamist extremist groups.

Suicide bombers of the Islamic State militant group in 2018 targeted a group from the Sikh community and killed 19 people, including its leader Awtar Singh Khalsa, in Jalalabad.

Khalsa, who had announced his candidature for the parliamentary elections, and other members of the Sikh community were in Jalalabad to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

More than four decades of armed conflict in Afghanistan has forced thousands of Hindus and Sikhs to seek refuge in other countries, especially India.

The violence and strong social and religious discrimination have drastically reduced the number of Sikhs in Afghanistan to around 1,500 from some 200,000 30 years ago.

The attack comes a day after the United States declared that it was cutting its aid to the Afghan government by $1 billion amid a political crisis between President Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah triggered by alleged fraud in last year's presidential polls.

The political feud has delayed the formation of a government-sponsored team to negotiate with the Taliban for intra-Afghan peace talks which were scheduled to kick off by March 10.

The US on February 29 reached an agreement with the Taliban for a roadmap to pull out American troops from the war-ravaged country.

The plan was to start with the withdrawal of 8,600 soldiers within 135 days from the date of the signing of the deal. Currently, some 14,000 US troops remain deployed in the country.

However, the insurgents and the government remain deadlocked over an agreement regarding the swapping of prisoners, which was a part of the US-Taliban accord and considered crucial for the commencement of the intra-Afghan talks.