Gunmen carried out a pre-dawn rocket attack on Kabul International Airport, setting off a gun battle with security forces in which four attackers were killed.

Afghan police run for cover at the site of a Taliban attack in front of Kabul's airport AFP

The militants occupied two buildings which were under construction some 700 metres north of the facility, and were using them as a base to direct rockets and gunfire toward the airport.

Kabul Police Chief Mohammed Zahir Zahir said four of the attackers were killed and that the attack was halted without any civilian or police casualties.

The airport was later reopened and operations returned to normal, Zahir said, after security forces inspected the runways for shrapnel and explosives.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the airport attack in a call to The Associated Press.

The airport hosts civilian traffic and serves as a base for Nato-led forces that have been fighting the Taliban and other insurgents for more than a decade.