Kabul: Gunfire and explosions rocked Kabul on Thursday as Taliban militants attacked a central district that houses several embassies and foreign compounds, hours after a suicide bomber targeted a British embassy vehicle, killing six people.
Attacks across Kabul have increased in recent weeks as US-led NATO forces prepare to wrap up their 13-year combat mission against Taliban insurgents at the end of this year.
Fears are growing that Afghanistan could tip into a cycle of violence as the NATO military presence declines, with the national security forces already suffering high battlefield casualties.
Sporadic gunfire and grenade blasts erupted for at least 45 minutes in the Afghan capital's central district today in the evening, though the target was not confirmed and police were unable to give immediate details.
The attack came hours after a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-packed car into a British embassy vehicle in Kabul, killing one Briton and five Afghans.
The Taliban used a recognised Twitter account to say they were behind both attacks.
At least eight blasts have hit Kabul over the last 10 days, including attacks on foreign compounds and on a female Afghan member of parliament who was injured in a suicide bombing that targeted her car.
Afghanistan suffered its deadliest attack of 2014 on Sunday when a suicide bomber struck at a volleyball match in the eastern province of Paktika, killing 57 people.
About 12,500 foreign troops are set to stay on into 2015 after the NATO combat mission ends, to train and support the Afghan army and police.
A British security contractor and an Afghan employee of the British embassy died in the blast today, which hit their vehicle on a stretch of road notorious for suicide attacks.
At least four Afghan bystanders were also killed, and more than 30 others injured.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond condemned the attack on the embassy vehicle as "senseless and cowardly".
"It reminds us once again of the risks our personnel take every day to keep trying to help Afghans build a better future -- and by helping them do so, protect our own security and own interests," he told a press conference in Rome.
A second British contractor with security firm G4S was injured in the bombing, which threw the embassy's 4x4 vehicle onto its side.