KABUL -  At least five people were killed Wednesday when a suicide bomber on foot struck near the Afghan defence ministry in Kabul, officials said, in an attack that was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Three other people were left wounded in the explosion, which occurred during afternoon rush hour when employees of the ministry were likely to go home.

"Most of the people killed and wounded were civilians, but we don't know the exact target," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.

Islamic State group claimed the attack through its propaganda agency Amaq. It said the bomber had targeted a checkpoint outside the Afghan presidential palace.

IS, notorious for their brutal reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has made inroads into Afghanistan in recent years. They are known to be comprised of disaffected Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, as well as Uzbek Islamists. But the group has been steadily losing territory in the face of heavy pressure from both US air strikes and a ground offensives led by Afghan forces.

Islamic State's strength has now depleted to 600-700 fighters from 3,000 in early 2016, NATO has said, adding that it killed the top 12 IS commanders in Afghanistan last year.

The jihadists also claimed a deadly assault on Afghanistan's largest military hospital last month, but survivors who spoke to AFP said the attackers chanted "Long live Taliban" in Pashto.

Afghanistan is also bracing for a fierce Taliban offensive in the spring after the failure of repeated government attempts to launch peace negotiations.

Reuters adds: A Defence Ministry spokesman said at least one civilian and two members of the Afghan security forces were among the casualties, adding that the target appeared to be a police post near military headquarters.

A police officer at the scene told Reuters the attack appeared to have been carried out by a suicide bomber on foot. A Reuters witness reported seeing several damaged cars, with possible injuries to the occupants.

Last month, Islamic State fighters killed nearly 50 people when then stormed the main military hospital in Kabul.