The military division commander of Khost province, Khial Baz Khan, told AFP that the deputy intelligence director for the province, Qudratullah Mandozai, was shot and killed by the Taliban on Saturday morning.

"The three Taliban who ambushed the deputy director have also been killed by coalition forces. Two of the three seemed to be Arabs," he said, adding that the operation was continuing.

Khan did not have further details and was on his way to the site of the ambush in Nadirshahkot, 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the provincial capital Khost.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the killing of the intelligence official and four other occupants of his vehicle. 

"A communist working as the deputy intelligence chief in Khost province was killed along with four others travelling with him in the same vehicle in Nadirshahkot district of Khost province," the spokesman who calls himself Abdul Samad told AFP by satellite phone.

"On the way back after the Taliban carried out the attack, coalition forces who were travelling on the same road heard the gunfire and attacked the Taliban, killing four of them," he said.

Southern and southeastern Afghanistan have been hit hard by an apparent resurgence of the Taliban, who have increasingly targeted aid workers as well as troops.