KABUL: A Taliban suicide attacker detonated an explosives-packed car next to a NATO military convoy in Kabul on Friday, killing three NATO personnel and injuring six civilian passers-by, officials said.
The blast in the Afghan capital left the twisted remains of the attacker's car spread across the scene along with several other badly-damaged vehicles, including a NATO sports utility vehicle, witnesses said.
"Three International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members died following a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack in Kabul, Afghanistan today," a statement from the NATO mission said.
ISAF did not release the nationality of the dead, in line with coalition policy to leave identification to national authorities.
The attack occurred on a main road that passes near to a series of government compounds and ISAF military facilities in Kabul on the way to the eastern city of Jalalabad.
"A car packed with explosives was detonated by a suicide bomber... as a result six of our civilian countrymen were injured," the ministry of interior said in a statement.
An AFP reporter said that ambulances, firefighters and armoured vehicles from the US-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan rushed to the blast site, which was quickly cordoned off by police.
"I was in my bakery shop when I heard a bang that shattered all the windows," Nehmatullah, who uses only one name, told AFP.
"I saw at least two bodies lying on the street and covered in blood, then came two vehicles of foreign forces and the soldiers pulled out two bodies of foreigners from a damaged black SUV."
ISAF and Afghan security forces removed damaged vehicles using trucks and transporters.
Among the injured being treated in a nearby hospital was a middle-aged Afghan man with wounds to his head and hands.
ISAF troops travel through Kabul in fast-moving and heavily protected convoys, but they have regularly been targeted by Taliban militants fighting a 12-year insurgency against the US-backed government.
"A martyrdom suicide attack took place in the 9th district of Kabul on a guesthouse of invading forces... a convoy of foreign forces was passing," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mijahid said in a statement.
"In the attack, 12 Americans soldiers were killed and a number of them were wounded, and a number of their vehicles were also damaged."
The Taliban routinely exaggerate death tolls after attacks.
In May, 15 people, including two US soldiers and four ISAF contractors, were killed in a similar car bomb that targeted a convoy in Kabul.
Friday's suicide bombing came after the insurgents fired two rockets into the US embassy compound in central Kabul early on Christmas Day. No one was injured.
The militants have vowed to step up pressure on foreign forces and Afghan authorities before next year's presidential election in April and the withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops.
Kabul has seen a drop in attacks in recent months after a series of high-profile strikes earlier in the year, with the intelligence agencies claiming to have foiled several plots involving truck bombs and suicide blasts.
The Supreme Court, the airport, foreign compounds and the presidential palace were all targeted in major attacks during 2013.
NATO forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting the Taliban, but negotiations have stalled on a security accord that would allow some US and NATO troops to stay after 2014.