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US condemns ‘fanatics and criminals’ as dozens killed in Sikh temple attack in Kabul

Family members cry after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. A gunman stormed a religious gathering of Afghanistan's minority Sikhs in their place of worship in the heart of the Afghan capital's old city on Wednesday.

RAHMAT GUL/AP

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan —  At least 25 people were killed when a lone gunman attacked a Sikh temple in Kabul’s old town Wednesday morning, starting an hourslong firefight with Afghan special forces, local officials said.

Women and children were among those who died in the attack, the Interior Ministry said, adding that all of the victims were members of Afghanistan’s small Sikh minority, which numbers in the thousands.

The gunman was killed in a gunfight with the special forces that lasted until late afternoon, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul condemned the “fanatics and criminals who target a house of worship to harm innocents” and expressed condolences to those who lost someone in the attack.

“Peace will only come when people resolve their differences through words, not guns,” the embassy said on Twitter.

Afghan forces helped scores of worshippers who were inside the temple when the attack began at 8 a.m. to escape, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Several people who were wounded in the attack are being treated in hospitals.

Foreign troops from NATO’s U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan provided advice and assistance to the Afghan soldiers who led the operation, a Resolute Support spokesman said.

The Taliban were quick to deny involvement in the assault. The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks global terrorist activity, said the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility.

The deadly attack came less than a month after the U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban, aimed at ending America’s longest war and allowing U.S. troops to fully withdraw from the country by next year if the Taliban and Afghan government adhere to numerous conditions spelled out in the pact — including that the Taliban not allow attacks to be launched against the U.S. and its allies.

Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, has been attacked three times since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed on Feb. 29. An Islamic State militant was responsible for the most recent attack earlier this week, officials said.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @pwwellman

 

Afghan security personnel inspect a Sikh house of worship, in the aftermath of a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
RAHMAT GUL/AP

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