A group of would-be suicide bombers tried to storm a major Nato base in eastern Afghanistan early yesterday but were repelled before they could enter, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, its second assault on the Nato base and an adjoining airport outside Jalalabad city in six months.

Meanwhile, a bomb attack in the north of the country killed seven people.

The militants attacked the Afghan army checkpoint outside the Jalalabad base shortly after dawn, sparking a gun battle that lasted at least two hours and involved Nato helicopters firing from overhead, said Sergeant Abdullah Hamdard, a national army commander.

A spokesman for the provincial government confirmed the attack and said eight assailants were killed, including two who were wearing explosives vests.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said there were 14 attackers and that 11 of them were killed, though the insurgent group typically gives inflated numbers.

Nato forces said in a statement that the base received fire but initial reports indicated no foreign or Afghan forces were killed.

A press photographer at the scene saw three dead bodies laid out, all in Afghan army uniforms, which militants often wear as a disguise. An AK-47, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a grenade were laid out nearby.

In northern Kunduz province a bomb hidden in a motorbike exploded on a busy street in Imam Sahib district, killing seven people. The bomb was detonated just as a vehicle belonging to a police official drove past. The official was killed, along with one of his bodyguards and five civilians.