- Around 80 worshipers who were trapped inside the Sikh house of worship, known as a Gurdwara, were rescued.
- ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack within hours via their semi-official news agency.
- Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed tweeted that the Taliban was not involved.
At least 25 worshipers were killed and eight others were wounded when a lone ISIS gunman rampaged through a Sikh house of worship Wednesday in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The Afghan Interior Ministry reported that one of the dead was a child. The gunman is said to have held many worshipers hostage for several hours while Afghanistan Special forces, helped by international troops, tried to clear the building.
Around 80 worshipers who were trapped inside the Sikh house of worship, known as a Gurdwara, were rescued as the gunman lobbed grenades and fired his automatic rifle into the crowd. A survivor, Mohan Singh, said that he was in Gurdwara, and that he first heard the sound of gunshots and he sought refuge under a table.
He later heard explosions, which he said he believes were from hand grenades. Mohan, who got injured when parts of the ceiling fell on him, was undergoing treatment at a Kabul hospital. In photographs shared by the Interior Ministry, several children were seen being rushed out of Gurdwara by Afghan Special Forces, many of them were barefoot and crying.
The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, condemned the incident. “Attacks on civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohid, also condemned the attack in a tweet, while neighboring Pakistan and India both issued statements of condemnation.
Pakistan, in particular, condemned the “heinous” attack. “Such despicable acts have no political, religious or moral justification and must be rejected outright,” the Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement said. “Such cowardly attacks on the places of religious worship of the minority community,” India said, reflect the “Diabolical mind set of the perpetrators and their backers.”
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack within hours. According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant posts and groups, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via the group’s Aamaq News Agency. The communiqué identified the gunman’s an Indian national, Abu Khalid al-Hindi. The militant was said to have carried out the attack to avenge the plight of Muslims living under severe restrictions in Indian-ruled Kashmir, Hindu India’s only Muslim-dominated state.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed tweeted that the Taliban was not involved. Immediately, the news about the attack spread. Earlier in the month, Afghanistan’s IS affiliate struck a gathering of minority Shiites, killing 32 people.
The attack occurred as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Wednesday called for a “reduction violence leading to a cease fire” by all combatants in Afghanistan to better prepare for “the looming health crisis posed by COVID-19.”
UNAMA also urged all parties to give a chance to intra-Afghan negotiations between warring groups. More than 137,000 Afghans have returned from Iran so far this year. This poses a high risk of the spread of the virus, and there have been concerns that the country’s devastated health system could be overwhelmed.