AFP - Taliban suicide bombers, most of them disguised as women, tried to storm government buildings and a military base in two Afghan cities on Tuesday, killing five people, officials said.
The attacks in Gardez and Jalalabad came amid a surge in violence ahead of presidential and provincial elections on August 20, when President Hamid Karzai will stand for re-election despite criticisms about security and corruption.
Taliban militants have increasingly used coordinated suicide and gun attacks in their fight against Karzai's Western-backed government and its foreign military allies deployed in the country for nearly eight years.
Six suicide bombers in wigs and burkas and armed with rifles and suicide vests tried to enter government buildings in Gardez, in Paktia province, but were shot dead before reaching their targets, authorities said.
"At 10:50 am (0620 GMT)... six suicide attackers armed with Kalashnikovs, grenade-launchers and suicide vests arrived near the intelligence office in a Corolla car," the Afghan National Directorate for Security (NDS) intelligence agency said in a statement.
The attackers "dressed as women, wearing wigs and burkas, walked towards the guards at the NDS gates, pretending to submit an application paper.
"One of the guards realised the man was armed, he opened fire... and killed one of the men," it said.
Two more attackers were killed as agents manning the gates opened fire, it said, adding that one of the bombers managed to set off his explosives, killing two agents.
The three remaining attackers ran away and two were killed by Afghan National Army soldiers, the NDS statement said.
"The other attacker, the sixth person, escaped towards the city and was later identified and fired at by police near a police station... after which he detonated, killing two police," it added.
Four children, a woman and police officer were wounded, it said. The spy agency said the bodies of the three attackers recovered showed "they are foreign nationals", without giving further details.
Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the provincial government had earlier said two police and three intelligence agents had lost their lives in the attack.
But provincial police chief Azizuddin Wardak confirmed two police officers and as many intelligence agents had been killed in the attacks.
Authorities temporarily slapped a curfew on Gardez but "everything is under control now. We have full control over the city," the police chief said.
In Jalalabad, two other bombers were killed in a shootout with police as they tried to fight their way into the city airport, a base for Afghan and foreign troops, said provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.
Jalalabad is the capital town of Nangarhar province, which sees regular Taliban violence, as does Paktia.
Abdulzai and a doctor in Jalalabad's hospital said one policeman was killed in the incident.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said the Islamist militia were responsible for both attacks.
"Fifteen of our mujahedin (holy fighters) -- suicide bombers who also have guns -- entered the governor's compound and other government buildings" in Gardez, Mujahed told AFP by telephone.
With the Taliban-led insurgency at its deadliest since the US-led invasion of 2001, the United States has ordered an extra 21,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in a bid to stabilise the country ahead of the August elections.
The attacks followed the deaths on Monday night of a group of militants who had been making roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), in the Deh Yak district of central Ghazni province.
Provincial police chief Khyalbaz Sherzai told AFP: "Ten Taliban had gathered in a house and were building IEDs. The bombs exploded and killed all of them.
"Their bodies were recovered by police but were handed to local villagers to be buried."
On Tuesday, a soldier from the US-led coalition was killed in a road accident near Kabul, the military announced.
Meanwhile armed men meanwhile kidnapped 13 Afghan road construction workers in Paktia, a local official said.
According to independent website -- www.icasualties.org -- which counts military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, 57 foreign soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan this month, the deadliest since 2001.