Gunmen believed to be Taliban insurgents have shot dead a U.S. civilian and two of his Afghan colleagues in an area near Kabul which has seen a surge in militant violence in recent months, officials said.

The American was driving along the Ghorband valley in Parwan province, north of Kabul, when he was attacked and killed, Afghan officials and the US embassy said.

"We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was killed in Parwan Province on Monday," an embassy official told AFP. The spokesman said the victim was a civilian but refused to give further details.

A senior official in Parwan province told AFP the man was an electrical engineer who was traveling to a survey project for the rural development ministry.

"He along with two Afghans were driving in a mini-van. Along the road they were chased by two or three insurgents for about half an hour. When they got to a certain area ... they were shot at from the (chasing) car," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Roshan Khalid, a spokeswoman for the provincial administration confirmed the incident but did not give any details.

Ghorband valley, a key passage to the central provinces including Bamiyan, the home of the giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, has become a militant hotbed in recent months.

The farming valley, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital, was the scene of a woman's public execution earlier this month, the video of which was released in Afghan media, prompting an international outcry.

The video showed a crowd of dozens of men cheering as a young woman was shot by a man with an AK-47 assault rifle. Authorities said the incident took place in Siagird, the same area where the US citizen was shot.

[image via Agence France-Presse]