A series of attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul were in retaliation for Koran burnings, a US Marine urination video and the Kandahar massacre, the Taliban has reportedly claimed.
The country’s interior ministry said a total of 17 militants were killed and two others were captured by police.
The co-ordinated strikes on Sunday targeted Nato’s headquarters, the city’s parliament building and a number of diplomatic residences – including the British and US embassies.
There were also attacks outside of Kabul, with two suicide bombers targeting an airfield used by Nato in Jalalabad, while a police station was attacked in the town of Gardez, 75 miles south of the capital.
President Hamid Karzai was reported to be under lockdown and MPs have been among those fighting back against the onslaught in Kabul, with some standing with Afghan forces to shoot at insurgents.
“These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we planned them for months,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has been quoted as saying.
The [Afghan] ministry of the interior, in lead of the operations, with the police force, [have] very capably dealt with this – they didn’t even call the International Security Assistance Force for help.
Isaf spokesman, Brig Gen Carsten Jacobson
Some fighting was still on-going between militants and Afghan police across the city, hours after the initial explosions and gunfire.
Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said Afghan forces captured two suicide bombers as they headed for targets in Kabul.
Reports said these two attackers were trying to reach the home of one of President Karzai’s two deputies, Mohammad Karim Khalili.
Afghan security forces, who are responsible for the safety of the capital, have been leading the response to the attacks around the city.
A spokesman for Isaf told Sky News the Afghans have dealt with events “very capably”.
Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said: “We’ve seen… a number of individuals attacks that were co-ordinated in time but not in co-ordinated in activity.
“All those attacks were following a pattern that is pretty close to what we have seen before – taking over empty buildings and firing rocket-propelled grenades indiscriminately in the direction of official buildings, compounds and individual targets.
“That has, as far as we are aware, hit the embassies of the United States, Germany and Britain. There were earlier reports of hits on the compound of the Russian embassy.
“The situation seems to be very much under control now. We have not heard gunfire for some time.
“The ministry of the interior, in lead of the operations, with the police force, [have] very capably dealt with this – they didn’t even call the International Security Assistance Force for help.”
Earlier, several explosions rocked the US, British and German embassies and a Nato military base in a central neighbourhood of the capital.
One report said a rocket-propelled grenade had hit the residence of the British diplomat in Kabul.
The Foreign Office confirmed in a statement: “There is an on-going incident in the diplomatic area of Kabul. We are in close contact with the embassy, all staff are accounted for.”
Afghan security forces have been scrambling to reinforce areas around the city centre
A spokesman for the US embassy said it was in lockdown, but staff there were also safe, while the German foreign ministry said there was some damage in the grounds of its embassy.
A US defence official, who did not want to be named, said the attackers had used mostly small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, and “perhaps even suicide bombers”.
A spokesman for Isaf said via Twitter there had been attacks in up to seven locations around Kabul.
Several gunmen had tried to enter the parliament building, but were driven back by security personnel and forced to take cover in a nearby building.
Reports said MPs were helping the Afghan forces fire back at the insurgents.
“I’m the representative of my people and I have to defend them,” Kandahar MP Naeem Hameedzai was quoted as saying.
The Kabul Star Hotel, which is located near the presidential palace, was also on fire following an attack there.
:: Four insurgents in the Haqqani network were arrested over an assassination attempt on the country’s vice-president Karim Khalili, an Afghan intelligence agency spokesman said.
They were detained before the co-ordinated attacks on government and diplomatic buildings in Kabul and three other provinces.