Kabul, Afghanistan (BBN)- The United Nations has condemned Tuesday’s  deadly attack on an office of the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kabul which comes less than two weeks before the holding of presidential and provincial council polls.

“The IEC and its civilian workers are conducting a public service so that Afghans can vote. It is reprehensible that they have been deliberately targeted,” Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Civilians are said to be among those killed in today’s incident, for which the Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility. According to media reports, a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle outside the election office while two other gunmen stormed into the building.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reiterated that such attacks on civilians are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.

The attack on the IEC is the latest in a series of recent violent incidents – including a deadly attack on a hotel in the capital and a suicide bombing of a market in Faryab – ahead of the 5 April elections, which will lead to the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

“These are extremely important elections for Afghanistan,” said Mr. Haysom, who is also the acting head of UNAMA. “Afghans from all parts of the country should have an equal opportunity to have their say on the future direction of their country.”

The Mission welcomed the efforts of the IEC and Afghan security agencies to create conditions which permit the broadest possible participation in upcoming elections.

“Afghans want to vote and to have the chance to forge their national destiny,” said Mr. Haysom, “They have a right to vote and those Afghans that believe they have a patriotic duty to participate in the elections must be given the chance to do so.”

Noting that security remains a challenge to the goal of achieving an inclusive election, he stressed that continued efforts by the Afghan security forces to reinforce the security of candidates, election workers and voters are vital.

“It is just as important,” he added, “that the IEC and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission take every measure to reassure those Afghans who make the noble choice to participate that their vote will be respected.”

BBN/SSR/AD-26Mar14-12:44 pm (BST)