updated 3/28/2014 8:56:56 AM ET 2014-03-28T12:56:56

KABUL (Reuters) - A group of Afghan Taliban insurgents forced their way into a guesthouse used by foreigners in an upscale residential part of the capital Kabul on Friday, police said.

A gunbattle erupted and military convoys were dispatched to secure the area.

The Afghan capital is on high alert and the atmosphere is nervous ahead of next week's presidential election which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.

"A suicide bomber detonated his car loaded with explosives in front of a guesthouse used by foreign and Afghan citizens and now a number of suicide bombers are apparently inside," said Hashmat Stanikzai, a spokesman for Kabul's police chief.

"A gunfight is under way. There are no reports of possible casualties."

The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, saying in a statement the target was a foreign guesthouse and a church. The nationalities and number of foreigners inside the building were not immediately clear.

Reuters television footage showed Afghan forces sealing off the street in the south of the capital and military convoys rushing to secure the area.

The nation of 30 million holds a presidential election on April 5 to elect a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai. It will also be a test for foreign donors hesitant about bankrolling the government after the bulk of NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan withdraw this year.

Violence has spiralled ahead of the vote, with Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacking an election commission office in Kabul on Tuesday. Last week, nine people including an AFP journalist and an election observer, were killed in a brazen attack on a highly fortified hotel in Kabul.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni, Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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