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25 Sikhs Massacred in a Suicide Attack in Kabul

Updated on March 27, 2020
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MG is a military specialist having spent quality time in the Indian Air Force. He is also an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College.


The Sikhs are a minuscule minority in Afghanistan. Most of the Sikhs in Afghanistan are settled around the capital city of Kabul. They, along with other minorities like the Shia's, Hindus, and Ahmedis have been facing discrimination from the time the Taliban took over Afghanistan. The Taliban which believed in the pristine form of Islam was intolerant to the minorities. Despite the denial, they were supported by the Pakistan government which was one of the three nations in the world which recognized the Taliban regime.

The Taliban regime also enacted a law that made it compulsory for a non-Muslim to tie a yellow band around his arm to identify him as a Hindu or Sikh. This was a throwback to the Nazi era when the Jews were supposed to wear distinct clothes so that everybody could know that the person was a Jew. The US Senate at that time condemned this draconian law and on a particular day, many US senators wore a band saying "I am Hindu", to express solidarity with the Hindus.

Thankfully after the complicity of the Taliban became apparent in the 9/11 attack, the regime was overthrown in a military operation led by the United States. A secular regime was sworn in. The present president is Abdul Ghani. During this period the ISIS which had been ousted from Iraq and Syria took refuge in Afghanistan.

The Taliban which had is own ax to grind allowed ISIS to have a foothold in Afghanistan. The United States entered into the war against the Taliban and failed to bring the war to a successful conclusion. One of the main reasons for this was the conduct of the Pakistan government and army which though backing the USA, secretly give sanctuary and support to a faction of the Taliban called the Haqqani faction.

The Taliban were persuaded by the Pakistan government to have face-to-face talks with the USA, as Donald Trump was keen to disengage from Afghanistan. An agreement has been hammered out but there are many imponderables in it and we will have to wait and see if the agreement stands the test of time.

In the meantime, the Taliban carried on attacks on government troops and were tolerant of ISIS activities. ISIS sometime back attacked a congregation of Shia Muslims killing 32 of them. They have followed up on 25th March with an attack on the Sikh temple in the heart of Kabul. A suicide bomber entered the temple and indiscriminately fired killing 25 Sikhs before he was neutralized by elite groups of the Afghan army.

The Afghan President has called it a "cowardly act" and one wonders whether President Trump has done the right thing in signing a peace deal with the Taliban which is tolerant of ISIS. The Taliban has not condemned the attack.

The attack

On 25 March a gunman entered the Sikh temple in the heart of the Afghan capital. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry has said that the gunman opened indiscriminate fire killing 25 worshippers and wounding eight. Just after this attack, the ISIS claimed responsibility.

It is reported that the gunman held many worshippers hostage for several hours. After news of the attack Afghan special forces, helped by international troops, tried to clear the building.

The Afghan special forces rescued at least 80 worshippers who had been trapped inside the Sikh house of worship. To ward of the security forces, the gunman lobbed grenades and fired his automatic rifle into the crowd. This has been reported by the ministry.

Afghan lawmaker Narendra Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh who is a member of the Majlis( parliament) said he rushed over to help after receiving a call from a person inside the Gurdwara telling him of the attack. There were about 150 people inside at the time, he said.

.This was not all for the next day at the funeral another militant threw a grenade and a child was injured. The minorities are living in a state of fear in Afghanistan and it appears that ISIS is on the rise.

Earlier this month, Afghan ISIS struck a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims in Kabul and 32 was killed. This despite a security cover having been provided by the government.

The peace accord signed by the United States with the Taliban, which it had labeled a terrorist organization earlier looks unreal. Similarly, the declaration by President Trump that the war against the ISI has been won is also a little hollow.

The problem in Afghanistan is a hangover from the time President Clinton and George Bush were presidents. The United States withdrew from Afghanistan after the Taliban had defeated the Russian forces thinking that the Taliban was on their side. The Taliban which believed in the pure form of Islam considered America as a great evil and turned against them resulting in 9/11. They were also able to take over Afghanistan in the absence of the Americans as they had the support of the Pakistan Army.

George Bush sent US forces into Afghanistan but in between, he lost focus and attacked Iraq to remove Saddam Hussain. All this is history as the USA is now persona non-grata in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the Taliban has become so strong that the Americans are forced to negotiate with them.

Last word

The United Nations has condemned the terrorist attack with the UN chief calling for perpetrators of the crime to be brought to justice. One point needs clarification. Despite the claim by ISIS, the Taliban is the main force and it controls all attacks against US and Afghan forces. The Taliban is also guilty of excesses against minorities when it was in power.
Indian security establishments believe the actual perpetrators of the attack are the Pakistan-backed Haqqani faction of the Taliban. This group had also bombed the Indian embassy in Kabul some time back.
With the coronavirus raging and more than 1100 pilgrims coming back to Afghanistan from Iran the virus has already appeared. Sad that at such a time when the world is gripped to combat this virus, the Taliban is continuing its policy of rampage and murder.

The peace deal struck by the United States with the Taliban is likely to collapse but maybe the US knows it and all it wants is to escape from Afghanistan. One must remember nobody survives who ever runs away from a battle.


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