By Michael Kamber and Sharifullah Sahak
KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO forces, acting on apparently faulty intelligence, killed two Afghan private security guards and wounded three others in a gun battle early Friday that could lead to renewed criticisms of foreign forces by President Hamid Karzai.
The foreign troops were searching for two cars they had been told were packed with explosives and were going to be used in a car bomb attack on the United States Embassy in Kabul, according to a statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF.
An ISAF representative said the battle started when troops took fire from a building near the lot where the cars were parked.
In the end, no explosives were found, and the troops released 15 people they had detained in the operation.
The ISAF statement described the raid as a joint operation with Afghan troops, but Col. Mohammed Zahir, director of criminal investigations with the Kabul police, denied that Afghan forces had been involved. Often on raids, NATO troops are accompanied by Afghan commandos not necessarily under the same command as the Afghan police and regular military.
Mr. Karzai has chafed at the lack of notification of Afghan commanders and complained bitterly about night raids in general because of the higher likelihood that innocent people — many of them armed for safety — will be killed by mistake.
The United States military has repeatedly promised to work hard to avoid deadly errors, but American commanders consider night raids effective because they often catch militants off-guard.
On Friday, Colonel Zahir expressed some of the Afghan frustration with such raids.
“NATO forces do not share the information with us, and it causes casualties,” he said.
The ISAF representative declined to speak about what appeared to be faulty intelligence, saying that the troops acted on what was considered credible information and shot only because they were shot at.
The Afghan government said it would investigate the shooting deaths. The guards who were killed worked for Tiger International, a private security company. They were protecting the Irshad Elham office building, a modern complex nestled among neon-lit wedding halls on the outskirts of Kabul.
“ISAF forces went to third floor of the Irshad Elham building and targeted Tiger International security guards,” Colonel Zahir said. “They killed the people based on the wrong intelligence that they had. After killing the guards, they did not find anything. There were no terrorists.”
A guard with Tiger International confirmed that two men had been killed there.
“There names were Mubin and Sadiq,” said the guard, who insisted on anonymity. “They had young children at home; they were good men, poor men.”
According to Hamidullah, a security guard who uses only one name and works at a neighboring building, the operation started at 1 a.m. Dozens of coalition vehicles descended on the neighborhood, blocking the road in all directions. “There were about 70 soldiers on foot approaching the building, and then the shooting started,” he said.
“The foreign troops came here as brothers to help us,” he added. “But now we are seeing the damage.”