India condemns terror attack on Sikhs, Hindus in Afghan province

The Indian embassy in Kabul has condemned the killings of 17 Sikhs and Hindus, including an election candidate, in a suicide attack by alleged Islamic State terrorists in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province amid a visit by President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday.

The embassy said the attack in Jalalabad district underlines the need for wider efforts to eliminate terrorists and also punish those who support them in any manner.

The bomb attack in Jalalabad district bordering Pakistan was one of the deadliest targeted against the Indian community in Afghanistan in recent times.

The suicide bomber struck a market located hundreds of metres from the provincial governor’s office where Ghani was holding talks, a local spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.

Ghani was still in Nangarhar but unharmed in the attack, a presidential spokesman said. The president is expected to return to Kabul on Monday.

Provincial health director Najibullah Kamawal confirmed that of the 19 killed, 17 were Sikhs and Hindus. At least 20 people were injured in the attack.

Among the dead was Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh candidate running in the October 20 parliamentary and district council elections.

The Islamic State group, which has a large presence in Nangarhar province, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dozens of Indian youths, especially from southern states, had left the country in the past without telling their parents of their destination to attend training camps run by Islamic State in Nangarhar. Several of them had died in airstrikes or encounters with Afghan security forces.

The latest attack comes a day after Ghani ordered security forces to resume their offensive against the Taliban following the expiry of the government’s 18-day truce and a visit by US envoy Alice Wells to mount pressure on the terror group to engage in peace talks.

Wells met Ghani and other top leaders and reaffirmed US support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and the need for an honourable and dignified path to ending the conflict.

She said it is important to hold timely, credible, and transparent elections in which Afghan citizens can safely cast their votes.

Prior to her visit, she said the US administration would not allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists.