A suicide bomber killed at least twenty people outside the Afghan Supreme Court in Kabul on Tuesday. More than forty more were injured and rushed to local hospitals, ten of whom are listed in critical condition.
The attacker, who has not been identified, approached the building on foot and targeted a side door that dozens of employees were using to exit the downtown Kabul facility. Although the attack bears a resemblance to previous suicide bombings organized by the Taliban, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far.
“My father and I were exiting through the parking lot when a huge blast hit us,” a witness told the AFP news agency. “My father is dead now. How will I live without him?”
“When I heard a bang I rushed toward the Supreme Court’s parking lot to find my brother who works there,” said another witness before adding that he found his brother alive. “Unfortunately, several people were killed and wounded.”
The Taliban has been actively targeting members of Afghanistan’s judicial system since the execution of six convicted insurgents last May. A suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying court employees soon after the execution, killing eleven people in what they referred to as an “act of revenge.”
A month later, Taliban fighters attacked a court in the eastern Logar province, killing seven people, including a newly appointed chief prosecutor, before ultimately dying at the hands of local law enforcement.
Last month, more than thirty people were killed by Taliban attacks in Kabul, with nearly seventy more injured in a pair of explosions that also took place during the afternoon rush hour. The Taliban took responsibility for the attacks that took place on January 10th, claiming that it was a part of their continued efforts to bring down the US-backed Afghan government and to oust the foreign presence from their nation. Most NATO troops have already left Afghanistan, though nearly 13,000 foreign troops remain, with the United States accounting for approximately half of that figure.
It is also possible that ISIS could be responsible for the attack, as they have been increasingly active in Afghanistan over the past two years. Although the civilian death toll rose only three percent from 2015, the number of casualties caused by ISIS-related attacks increased by a factor of ten. They have, however, primarily targeted Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim community rather than formal government structures such as the Supreme Court.
The United Nations reported on Monday that civilian casualties in the country have hit an all-time high, with a total of 3,498 killed in 2016 alone. Improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks accounted for the second largest portion of that figure, with children representing nearly one in four of those casualties. At least 7,500 more civilians were injured in 2016 as a result of fighting between terrorist organizations and the American-backed, elected government of Afghanistan.
“The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer brutal and unprincipled attacks that are forbidden under international law,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in the press release earlier this week.
The Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, has condemned this latest attack as a “crime against humanity and an unforgivable act.”
Image courtesy of Reuters