Jalalabad: An explosion hit the centre of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday, killing at least 19 people, including several members of the small Sikh minority, provincial government officials said.
The blast, hours after President Ashraf Ghani had opened a hospital in Jalalabad, damaged shops and buildings around Mukhaberat square in the city, said governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani, according to a report of The Wire.
Ghulam Sanayi Stanekzai, police chief of Nangarhar said the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who targeted a vehicle carrying members of the Sikh minority who were travelling to meet the president.Officials said at least 10 of the dead were Sikhs.
Afghanistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation but a small number of Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country."It is over for us, we are finished, they have massacred us, at least 10 of us," a man told, too upset to give his name.
Inaamullah Miakhel, a spokesman for the provincial health department of Nangarhar, said 19 people had been killed and 20 wounded.Officials said the casualty total might have been even higher had much of the city not been blocked off for Ghani's visit. He was not in the area when the blast occurred.
Avtar Singh Khalsa, the man who was going to represent Afghanistan's tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, also lost his life in the attack.Khalsa ran unopposed for a seat in the lower house of parliament that was apportioned to the minority by presidential decree in 2016. He also served as a senator representing the minority, which has long had a seat in the upper house of parliament.
"I don't only want to serve my Sikh and Hindu brothers. I have to be able to serve all the Afghan people, no matter which ethnicity or group they belong to. Our services must reach everyone," he told the Associated Press during an interview.
"We must try to save our people from this chaos. By any means and at any cost we must ask for our rights from the government. Your rights will not be given to you, you must earn them. I sacrifice myself for those of my brothers who have been through all kinds of pain and suffering. I don't care if I lose my whole family and I get killed for this cause. I will struggle until I get their rights," Khalsa had said when asked about Hindus and Sikhs facing persecution under the Taliban and Islamic State.The 52-year-old, who served for 10 years in the Afghan army, is survived by his wife and four kids.(UNI)