A bomb blast has rocked the Afghan capital Kabul, near to the country's intelligence service headquarters. Gunfire was heard after the explosion, as a gunfight took place between soldiers and suicide bombers.
Six suicide bombers were reported to be involved in the attack, in which one bomb did go off, at about noon on Wednesday.
Two guards and five insurgents - two said to have had their explosives strapped around them - were killed in subsequent fighting. The device that exploded, a large car bomb, was detonated outside Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
"One of the attackers blew himself up at the gate of the intelligence office" in Sedarat Square, senior police officer Mohammad Zahirtold the German news agency DPA.
"Five other bombers were shot dead by the security personnel of the intelligence office before they could get inside," he said.
The French news agency AFP said it had received a text message from Taliban that claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that "a large number of intelligence workers were killed and wounded."
ISAF says no involvement
A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the explosion and gunfire. He told AFP that there was no ISAF involvement in the fighting.
Last month, the head of the NDS, Asadullah Khalid, narrowly escaped death when he was targeted by a suicide bomber. That attack appeared aimed at derailing a fragile peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Wednesday's blast came only days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai returned from a trip to Washington, where he discussed the security situation with US President Barack Obama, particularly the planned withdrawal of NATO-led combat troops by the end of 2014.
rc/ipj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)