KABUL — A car bomb Tuesday killed at least 17 civilians, most of them employees of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court, in one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in the past year.
The explosives were detonated at the entrance to the Supreme Court just as employees were boarding buses to go home, said Gen. Mohammed Zahir, chief of the Kabul police investigative division. Afghan officials said that in addition to the fatalities, 39 people were injured. All the casualties were civilians.
The Taliban said in a statement that the bombing was aimed at punishing judges who have imposed harsh sentences on insurgents. It called Afghan judicial officials “cruel.”
The attack came a day after seven suicide bombers attacked the Kabul airport and a separate attack claimed several lives in the southeastern province of Zabul. In the past month, two other attacks targeted the International Committee of the Red Cross and a Western nongovernmental organization that aids migrants.
Coalition and Afghan military officials said they expect insurgents to continue attacks across the country in an effort to disrupt plans for next year’s national elections and to expose Afghan security forces as incapable of defending the country ahead of the withdrawal of most NATO troops by the end of 2014.
On Tuesday, Jan Kubis, the United Nations’ special representative for Afghanistan, spoke about the deteriorating security situation across the country and the increasing number of Taliban attacks targeting civilians.
“The situation of civilians in the country and conflict-related civilian casualties are, indeed, not going in the right direction,” Kubis said. “On the contrary, the situation has worsened.”
Data collected by the United Nations underscored Kubis’s comments.
Between Jan. 1 and June 6, the world body counted 3,092 civilian casualties related to the war — the vast majority victims of the Taliban — an increase of 24 percent compared with the same period last year. Children accounted for more than one-fifth of those casualties.
“All of this shows a continuing, strong disregard for the fate of civilians by the insurgents,” Kubis said.
The target of Tuesday’s attack, Afghanistan’s high court, is one of the most important institutions established under President Hamid Karzai’s government with Western support.
Dozens of Afghan police officers and a smaller number of NATO troops arrived after the blast to survey the damage and shuttle the wounded to hospitals. Five buses and several cars were destroyed.
“Window glass came down like rain inside the building, and outside people were wailing and shouting,” said one top judge, who was in the building during the attack and spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety. “When I looked out, I saw bodies and damaged minibuses. People were either inside the bus or were getting in when it happened.”
More than an hour after the attack, ambulances were still evacuating victims. Blood stained the ground. Afghan officials said they expected some of the wounded to die in the hospital.
In one of the charred vehicles, surprisingly still intact, was a letter from a woman named Shabana addressed to the judges. It was found next to two black high-heeled shoes, size 6.
“I am asking the Supreme Court to hire me as an employee,” the letter said. “I have financial problems, and I lost both of my parents when I was a student.”
Sayed Salahuddin and Mohammad Sharif contributed to this report.