Afghanistan: Head of Sikh community in Kunduz shot dead by unknown gunmen
A prominent Sikh leader in the restive Afghan city of Kunduz was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Thursday, the latest in a string of attacks targeting the minority community whose members have left the country in droves.
Lala Del Souz, a naturopath, was gunned down in Haji Gulistan Kochi Haman area of Kunduz at 9 am, Tolo News channel reported. He was reportedly on his way to his shop when the shooting occurred.
Del Souz, who headed the Sikh community of Kunduz succumbed to his injuries while being taken to hospital, said Naeem Mangal, the chief of the regional hospital.
Kunduz security chief Masoum Stanikzai confirmed the incident and said police had arrested three suspects. Investigations will continue, he added.
Prem, Del Souz’s uncle, said his nephew was well liked and had no enemies. Other relatives said Del Souz was shot five years ago but survived. Prem asked the government to investigate the killing and make sure those responsible were brought to justice. He said if this does not happen, the few remaining Sikhs will “sell up and leave” Kunduz province.
This was the second killing of a Sikh since October, when Sardar Rawail Singh was abducted from his home and gunned down by suspected militants wearing military fatigues in the restive Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan.
Del Souz’s killing sparked an outcry on social media, with hundreds condemning the incident and sending condolences to his family.
Following the collapse of Kunduz province to the Taliban on two occasions in a little more than a year, many Sikhs left the area. After the fall of Kunduz city last year, Del Souz reportedly moved his family to India but stayed on himself with Prem in a ‘dharamsala’.
Only three Sikh families still live there. Sikhs have lived in Kunduz for more than three decades and there were as many as 40 families at one time.
Some 30,000 civilians fled Kunduz province after the Taliban launched an offensive in October to take over the region, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Nearly 99% of the Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan have left the country over the past three decades, Tolo News said. It added that the Sikh and Hindu population numbered 220,000 in the 1980s but was now estimated to be only 1,350.
Tolo News said a survey done by it in June had showed that Hindus and Sikhs were once very active in business but now faced increasing poverty. The population of the two communities plummeted to 15,000 when the Taliban were in power during the 1990s and remained at that level during the militant regime.
Sikhs and Hindus suffered huge setbacks after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. This forced many of them to leave rural areas and move to Kabul to make a living.