KABUL — Two Afghan security guards were killed after coalition forces raided an office in Kabul over an alleged plot to attack the United States embassy, officials said Friday.
The operation, involving international and Afghan forces, targeted the offices of a trading and transport company in the city centre which intelligence reports suggested was harbouring two cars laden with explosives.
Two guards working for a private security company were killed in the shoot-out but no explosives were found at the scene, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
Another two people were injured and 15 people detained at the offices were later released.
“After receiving a credible threat to attack the US embassy, ISAF coordinated with Afghan security forces to move on an area of interest,” NATO-led ISAF said in a statement.
“Intelligence reports indicated there were two vehicles parked there that were thought to be loaded with explosives.”
As the patrol approached the scene they identified themselves, were fired upon and shot back, killing two people, the statement said. It added that a “large number” of weapons were later found at the scene.
Mohammad Zahir, Kabul police’s chief of criminal investigations, told AFP that a probe into what had happened was under way.
“Naturally, these kinds of incidents and catastrophes happen,” he said.
The incident took place in district four of Kabul, a mixed business and residential neighbourhood which is seen as being relatively peaceful.
Although ISAF stressed the office was the location identified by intelligence reports ahead of the raid, experts have warned that killings of civilians risk undermining coalition efforts to defeat the Taliban.
On Thursday, ISAF said it was investigating the “inadvertent” deaths of three people in the northern Faryab province which came as a helicopter opened fire in an operation targeting a Taliban leader.
And on Tuesday, five civilians were killed in a firefight involving coalition troops.
In August, President Hamid Karzai ordered the closure of all private security companies in Afghanistan.
But after months of pressure from Western allies, he backtracked in October, saying he would let dozens of “legal” firms operate, although under tougher regulations.
Zahir said the guards who died in Kabul worked for a firm deemed legal by officials.
There were several other violent incidents across Afghanistan Friday.
In a separate incident in Kabul, a bomb exploded underneath an Afghan National Army (ANA) vehicle but there were no casualties.
In southeast Afghanistan, one policeman and one civilian were killed by a mine near Khost, close to the border with Pakistan, a senior army officer said.
And in the east of the country, one policeman was killed and another injured when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb near the main road between Jalalabad and Torkham in Nangarhar province, local police chief Ali Shah Paktyawal told AFP.
ISAF has some 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, two-thirds of which are from the United States, fighting a nine-year insurgency by the Taliban.
This year has seen the highest death toll yet for international troops, with the total standing at 705 so far.