19 killed in Afghan bombing

JALALABAD (Afghanistan) • Grief mixed with anger among Afghanistan's minority Sikh and Hindu community yesterday as it prepared for funerals of loved ones, including an election candidate, killed in a suicide attack.

At least 19 people were killed and 21 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd waiting to meet President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday.

Scores of mourners shouted "death to Ashraf Ghani" and "death to the government" as they placed coffins in ambulances that would take them to a temple for funeral ceremonies. Among the dead were 17 Sikhs and Hindus, officials said, including Mr Avtar Singh, the only Sikh candidate running in the Oct 20 legislative elections, and Mr Rawail Singh, a prominent social activist.

"This attack has killed many of our elders, those who loved their country more than anything else," Mr Narendar Singh said as he took the body of his father, Mr Avtar Singh, from the hospital. "We were the direct target. The government really does not care about us. We used to be a huge community, but most of us have left."

Around 1,000 Sikhs and Hindus are said to reside in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly Muslim nation. Most of them live in Jalalabad, as well as the south-eastern city of Ghazni and the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest carried out by the militants in the restive province where they have a foothold. Mr Ghani was in Jalalabad on Sunday as part of a two-day visit to the province. He was not harmed.

Mr Jagandar Singh, who lost his brother in the attack, said the mourners would consider taking to "the streets in Kabul" to express their anger at the government's inability to protect civilians.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2018, with the headline '19 killed in Afghan bombing'. Print Edition | Subscribe