Sikhs in the Crosshairs of Islamic State Terrorist Group in Afghanistan

At least one person was killed and seven wounded in an attack on a Sikh temple in Afghanistan for which an Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility.

2008 photo of Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul. (Photo by 	Singhalong100, public domain)
2008 photo of Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul (Photo by Singhalong100, public domain)

Gunmen stormed the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on June 18, killing a guard and wounding seven others.

In a statement posted on its website, the Islamic State said the assault on what it called “the Sikh and Hindu temple” was in retaliation for alleged insults that a government official in India made against the Prophet Muhammad.

The statement did not name the official, and it is not clear if that person had any connection with India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, which faced a severe social media backlash when two of its officials made controversial comments about the Prophet Muhammad in May. The comments set off a diplomatic firestorm pitting a string of Islamic countries against the Indian government.

Nor was it clear why a Sikh temple would be targeted for comments allegedly made by an Indian official, considering Sikhs are less than 2 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people, according to the country’s 2011 religion census figures.

The Islamic State claimed Abu Mohammed al-Tajiki assaulted the Sikh gurdwara with machine-gun fire and hand grenades. Other terrorists outside the place of worship detonated four explosive devices and a car bomb targeting patrols of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia that tried to protect the temple.

Police in Kabul said all the terrorists were killed in the gunfight with Taliban patrols, which lasted several hours. Authorities released no details about the number of terrorists who participated in or died after the attack.

U.S.-based Sikh Coalition said the gurdwara was considerably damaged in the attack. “The recurring tragic violence targeting the Afghan Sikh community is devastating, but also entirely predictable and preventable,” the group’s executive director Anisha Singh said following the attack. “The international community, and in particular the United States, continues to fall short of urgently needed efforts to protect and safely resettle all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.” The coalition has lobbied for the resettlement of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Muslim-majority Afghanistan. President Joe Biden supported the idea during his 2020 presidential campaign, and both Democratic and Republican legislators in the House and Senate have advocated for the resettlement of the minority communities.

Little has been done, however, to help Sikh and Hindu families evacuate from Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power there last August following the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. 

As many as 100,000 Sikhs called Afghanistan home in the 1970s—years before almost the entire Sikh population in the country was driven into exile because of war, poverty and religious bigotry.

Less than 700 Sikhs and Hindus remained in Afghanistan when the 2020 attack on Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib occurred, according to an Associated Press report by Rahim Faiez. Dozens of families have fled since then, but many have no choice but to stay because they lack the resources to leave.


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Afghanistan Islamic State terrorist attack Sikh Temple Gurdwara Karte Parwan Kabul