(Left) Labour Party leader Edward Miliband with Dhamender Singh Phangurha, alias Del Singh
London, Jan. 18: A British Indian politician and voluntary worker, who was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul last night, has been hailed by friends and colleagues alike as a “hero”.
Normally, Indians tend to keep away from the world’s trouble spots (unless there is money to be made) but Del Singh was made of sterner stuff.
It was confirmed that Del Singh, a Labour Party member who “dedicated his life to working with people across the world who needed his support”, was among 21 people, including 13 foreigners, who died in the devastating Taliban suicide bombing of a popular restaurant in Kabul.
The foreign office in London confirmed that two Britons, one of them Dhamender Singh Phangurha, popularly known as “Del Singh” in his home town of Southampton and among his Labour Party compatriots, were killed when the Taverna du Liban restaurant was targeted by the Taliban.
The other Briton was named as Simon Chase.
The suicide attacker detonated his explosives outside the gates of the heavily fortified restaurant, the deputy interior minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said.
Then gunmen entered the restaurant and started shooting at people inside but all three attackers were killed, according to Gen. Mohammed Zahir, the Kabul police chief, announced.
The restaurant is in an area which is home to several embassies, non-governmental organisations and the residences and offices of Afghan officials. Like most places frequented by foreign diplomats, aid workers, journalists and businessmen in the war-torn country, it has no signs indicating its location and is heavily secured.
Western journalists report that the restaurant is on a small side street in the diplomatic quarter of the central Wazir Akbar Khan area, just off a bumpy semi-paved road, in a house with low ceilings and an enclosed patio, but no windows.
Labour leader Edward Miliband today paid tribute to Del, one of the party’s brightest hopes and a likely Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the southeast of England after elections due on May 22 this year.
Miliband said: “My thoughts — and the thoughts of the whole Labour Party — are with the family and friends of Del Singh who was killed in yesterday’s tragic suicide bomb in Kabul. People everywhere will be appalled and shocked by this barbarous act of terror deliberately targeting members of the international community living and working in Kabul in the service of the Afghan people.”
He emphasised the nature of Del’s selfless and heroic work in many of the world’s trouble spots. “Del spent over 10 years carrying out vital work on development projects in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sudan, Sierra Leone and other countries. He dedicated his life to working with people across the world who needed his support.”
Miliband was joined by the Labour general secretary Iain McNicol who said: “Del Singh was a committed and passionate campaigner who wanted to improve the lives of people in conflict zones and those of people closer to home. Del will be missed by everyone in the Labour Party who has worked and campaigned alongside him for over two decades. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted: “Shocked to hear of death of del Singh in Kabul — condolences to his family and friends.” Friday’s roll call of the dead included two Canadians and the Lebanese head of the IMF. The owner of the restaurant, Kamal Hamada, died trying to fight off the attackers with a handgun.
As the drawdown of American and British troops continue, the Taliban are making increasing bold statements that Afghanistan will be under their control and subject to the harshest form of Islamic law.
The Taliban said the attack was to avenge an American airstrike in Parwan province this week, which President Hamid Karzai said killed seven children and one woman. Analysts say the attack comes at a crucial time for Afghanistan, less than three months before the country is due to elect a new President.
At the human level, Del’s death represents a big loss to his local community. In a recent election appeal he said: “My name is Del Singh. I am asking for your support to become our party’s elected representative for the southeast at the European Parliament. I agree with Ed Miliband that politics is too important to leave to the politicians. I am a candidate with substantive and diverse professional and voluntary experience.”
He said he had “over 10 years’ experience working on EU, UN, and DFID projects in countries including Afghanistan, Belgium, Kosovo, Sudan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Libya and Nepal; experience of working on the factory floor (“alongside my mother”), in business financing and at the European Parliament; voluntary work as a mentor to jobseekers in the southeast and work with a homeless charity”.