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20 Indians Killed In A Terrorist Attack In Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) condemned the attack

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Afghan firefighters clean up the site of a deadly suicide bombing near Kabul University, in Kabul, March 21, 2018.
Afghan firefighters clean up the site of a deadly suicide bombing near Kabul University, in Kabul, March 21, 2018. VOA
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A suicide bomber targeted a group of Sikhs and Hindus, two Afghan minority communities, in Jalalabad city, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, on Sunday, killing nearly 20 people.

“They brutalized us. They have martyred 15 and wounded 15 other Sikhs. We are not aligned with any group or party. Why would anyone attack us? We never harmed anyone,” Tarlok Singh, a member of the Sikh religious minority, told VOA.

However, an Afghan health official told VOA the death toll was higher, with 19 people killed — at least 17 from the Sikh and Hindu communities — and at least 20 others injured.

The Sikhs and Hindus were reportedly on their way to attend a gathering led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the provincial governor’s office when a suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosive device.

Islamic State through its media wing, Amaq, took responsibility for the attack in Jalalabad city, however, the militant group claimed to have targeted a “medical compound.”

It is believed to be one of the first times a suicide bomber has targeted members of the Sikh minority group in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, it is the first time that our Sikhs become the victim of suicide bombing. The leaders of the group and their active community members were all killed or injured today,” Zabihullah Zimaray, a former provincial secretary general of Nangarhar province, told VOA.

Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader in the Sikh community, was among those killed in today’s suicide attack, an Afghan official told VOA.

Khalsa was an unopposed candidate running for the only seat for Afghan Sikh and Hindu minorities in Afghanistan’s parliamentary election in October.

Place where the attack took place
Map, Place where the attack took place. VOA

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) condemned the attack and called the attack on minority groups “… an obvious example of a war crime,” and asked the Afghan government to bring those responsible to justice.

“The Afghan armed oppositions must respect the international humanitarian laws and human rights values and refrain from targeting specific groups or individuals,” IHRC spokesperson Mohammad Bilal Sidiqi told VOA.

Discrimination

The Afghan Sikh and Hindu populations totaled about 220,000 in the 1980s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahedeen were in power during the 1990s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country, according to an investigation conducted by TOLO news, Afghanistan’s most viewed private television station.

Discrimination is one the many reasons Sikh and Hindu minorities are fleeing Afghanistan, Anar Kali Hunaryar, an Afghan Sikh senator, told VOA in a previous interview.

“Discrimination has caused our children not to attend the mainstream schools and that is why most of our kids in Afghanistan remained illiterate and could not actively participate in their communities,” Hunaryar said during the interview.

Afghanistan is a predominantly Muslim country, but the constitution spells out equal rights to the followers of other faiths.

“The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rituals,” reads Article Two in Chapter One of the constitution.

However, Rawinder Singh, a member of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Union, who spoke to VOA previously on the topic, named “social discrimination” as the No. 1 problem religious minorities face in the country.

The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of the Sikh faith, and India is home to the world’s largest Sikh population.

“Our fellow Afghans call us Indian and we are being told to go back to India. We are Afghans just like any other resident of this country. Yes, we follow the same religion as Indians, but it’s not rational to say that we do not belong to Afghanistan,” Singh told VOA.

Sikh and Hindu minorities mostly dwell in the south and eastern Afghanistan, and their numbers continue to fall.

Also read: Twin Bomb Attacks in Afghanistan’s Kabul Kills 25 , IS Takes Responsibility

“We were being treated ill and discriminated in the past, but today they badly brutalized us,” Tarlok Singh said, referring to the suicide bomber attack. (VOA)

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Hundreds Of Afghan Civilians Were Displaced Due To IS

Families in the province left their houses to escape violence from militants.

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Afghanistan
Afghan National Army troops prepare for an operation against insurgents in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017. voa

In the last few weeks, at least 160 families have been displaced in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province by Islamic State attacks and fighting between U.S.-backed Afghan government forces and various militant groups.

More than 400 families have been displaced in the province in the past 10 months.

Families in the province say they left their houses to escape violence from militants.

“It’s been a few days that the IS militants have re-emerged, and a new round of firefighting has started. We had no choice but to seek refuge in deserts, under the government-controlled areas,” Khan Mohammad, a displaced man, told VOA.

Two hundred and fifty of the displaced families are from Nangarhar’s restive Pachir Wa Agam district where IS militants are active and fighting Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents over territory control.

IS militants attacked the Pachir Wa Agam district, destroyed many homes and captured more than two dozen local men last December, according to Afghan officials.

The district came under heavy airstrikes when the U.S. entered Afghanistan in pursuit of al-Qaida and the Taliban beginning in late 2001.

Attaullah Khogyani, the governor of Nangarhar’s spokesperson, downplayed the IS threat but confirmed a recent displacement of 160 families within Deh Bala district of the province.

“The reasons for displacement of these families are the current special military operation against IS militants,” he added.

An internally displaced Afghan woman who fled from recent conflict cooks bread outside a shelter in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017.
An internally displaced Afghan woman who fled from recent conflict cooks bread outside a shelter in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017. VOA

IS Reemergence

Afghan joint forces drove IS extremists out of the Pachir Wa Agam district in Nangarhar last December, and then hundreds of local men joined the central government’s security forces to help ensure that IS radicals cannot return to the area.

The Afghan Defense Ministry talked down any “serious” IS threat in the area, asserting that militants are trying to terrify unarmed locals at the behest of regional intelligence agencies. General Mohammad Radmanish told VOA that multiple military operations are under way in eastern Nangarhar province to remove remaining IS fighters.

“We will boost these military operations to provide security and wipe out the traitors. We are also starting to venture the new strategy and improvise our local army units once the areas are cleared,” Radmanish added.

During the past three years, more than 14,000 families were displaced internally in Nangarhad and only 8,000 of them have returned to their houses, Afghan authorities said.

Also read: Summary trials have no place in Afghan laws Behrooz Jahanya

Joint U.S. and Afghan forces’ air and land operations killed at least 100 IS militants in the province, Afghan authorities said Tuesday. (VOA)