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Suicide bomber targets Sikhs, Hindus in Afghanistan; 19 dead

Police and firemen carry a dead body at the site of a deadly suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan Thursday, June 7, 2018. A suicide bomber targeted a group of Sikhs and Hindus on their way to meet Afghanistan's president in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, killing at least 19 people including Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community who had planned to run in the parliamentary elections set for October. (AP Photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber targeted a group of Sikhs and Hindus on their way to meet Afghanistan’s president in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, killing at least 19 people.

Inamullah Miakhail, spokesman for the provincial hospital in Nangarhar, said that 17 out of 19 dead in the attack are from the minority Sikh and Hindu community.

Miakhail added that at least ten of 20 wounded were also from the same minority community and are undergoing treatment at a Jalalabad hospital.

Narendr Singh, one of the wounded Sikh form Sunday’s attack, confirmed to The Associated Press by phone from his hospital bed in Jalalabad that the attack targeted their convoy.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said that a number of and shops vehicles caught fire as result of the attack.

Gen. Ghulam Sanayee Stanekzai, Nangarhar’s police chief, said that the attacker targeted the group on its way to the governor’s compound. They had planned to meet with President Ashraf Ghani, who was visiting the region on Sunday.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate are active in the province.

Sikhs and Hindus have long suffered widespread discrimination in the conservative Muslim country and been targeted by Islamic extremists. Today the community is comprised of only around 1,000 people. Under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, they were told to identify themselves by wearing yellow armbands, but the dictate was not wholly enforced. In recent years, large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus have sought asylum in India, which has a Hindu majority and a large Sikh population.

In a separate incident, at least 110 people have been hospitalized after drinking from a river in the northern Parwan province, an official said.

Abdul Khalil Farhangi, the head of the main hospital in Charakar, the provincial capital, said it was not clear what caused them to become ill. The symptoms included vomiting and headaches.

Afghanistan’s infrastructure has suffered from decades of war, and many rural communities do not have access to electricity or clean running water.

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