A suicide bomber attacked a group of Sikhs and Hindus who were traveling to meet with Afghanistan’s president on Sunday, killing at least a dozen people in the eastern Nangarhar province, according to Afghan officials.
The unidentified bomber detonated next to the group as it was on the way to the governor’s compound in Jalalabad, where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was visiting over the weekend, Reuters reported.
“Most of the victims are Sikhs,” Nangarhar police chief Ghulam Sanayi Stanekzai said, according to Reuters.
Afghan officials offered conflicting casualty counts following the blast. A spokesman for the provincial governor’s office said the bombing had killed at least 12 people and wounded 20 others.
Stanekzai put the number of wounded at five, the Associated Press reported.
As of Sunday afternoon, no group had claimed responsibility for the attack. Both the Taliban and Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate are active in the Nangarhar region and have attacked religious minorities in the past.
After decades of persecution at the hands of the Taliban and the Sunni Muslim majority, Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities have been whittled down to a combined total of about 1,000. Most live in the capital of Kabul and other larger cities.
Sunday’s attack comes as the the Taliban and U.S.-backed Afghan forces have resumed fighting after a short-lived ceasefire to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting season.
Despite additional deployments of American troops and increased airstrikes, the U.S.-led NATO coalition and partner Afghan forces have had little lasting success against the Taliban, which controls many of the country’s rural areas and can carry out attacks in urban centers with impunity. (RELATED: The Taliban Almost Took Over An Afghan City, Proving That It’s Far From ‘Losing Ground’)
At least 30 Afghan soldiers were killed in June when Taliban fighters overran an Afghan National Army base in the western province of Badghis. In May, the Taliban briefly took over a large part of the western city of Farah from Afghan forces, requiring an emergency response from American commandos and close air support.
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