Multiple explosions, gunfire in Kabul diplomatic area: AFP

An AFP reporter near the scene heard the loud crackle of gunfire and more than a dozen rounds of explosions from the area in the space of an hour

Published: Updated:

Sporadic bursts of gunfire and heavy explosions rocked a diplomatic district of the Afghan capital late Tuesday, with police saying a guesthouse is believed to be the target of the ongoing attack.

"An unknown number of armed men have attacked what at this stage we belive is a guest house in Wazir Akbar Khan district," Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi told AFP.

"They are using hand grenades and explosions can be heard. Security forces are at the scene trying to contain the attack," he added.

An AFP reporter near the scene heard the loud crackle of gunfire and more than a dozen rounds of explosions from the area in the space of an hour.

Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said security officials were trying to confirm the target of the assault in Wazir Akbar Khan, home to several foreign embassies and diplomatic compounds which has been hit by Taliban attacks in the past.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday's assault, which comes as the Taliban intensify their annual spring-summer offensive.

The insurgents, waging a 13-year war against the US-backed Afghan government, have stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets despite Kabul's repeated overtures to reopen peace talks.

The militants have launched a series of attacks in the capital and around the country as NATO forces have pulled back from the frontlines.

A blast triggered by a Taliban car bomber ripped through the parking lot of the justice ministry in Kabul on May 19, killing four people and wounding dozens of others.

Also this month 14 people -- mostly foreigners -- were killed in a Taliban attack on a guest house in the capital that trapped dozens attending a concert.

Official efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table have so far borne little fruit.

The surge in attacks has taken a heavy toll on civilians, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan. In the first four months of 2015, civilian casualties jumped 16 percent from the same period last year, it said.

The Afghan government has drawn public criticism for failing to end insurgent attacks, which critics blame on political infighting and a lengthy delay in finalising a cabinet.

President Ashraf Ghani last Thursday nominated Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, a top official in the government body overseeing the country's peace process, for the crucial position of defence minister.

The post had been left vacant for months due to disagreements between Ghani and his chief executive officer and former presidential election rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

Public criticism over the failure to appoint a defence minister has been especially fierce.

Afghan forces are now solely responsible for security after NATO's combat mission formally ended in December, with a small follow-up force staying on to train and support local personnel.

Earlier this month NATO formally announced plans to retain a small military presence in Afghanistan after 2016 to help strengthen local security forces.