NATO's command in Afghanistan is investigating a military operation in a northern province that it says led to the "inadvertent" deaths of two people.
The incident, which took place Thursday in Faryab province, is among several skirmishes that have resulted in the deaths of apparent non-combatants during warfare, a controversial and much-derided occurrence in Afghanistan.
"While we take extraordinary care in conducting operations to avoid civilian casualties, unfortunately in this instance it appears innocent men were mistakenly targeted. We send our sincere condolences to their families and friends," said U.S. Air Force Col. James Dawkins, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
Security forces were trying to stop suspected insurgents in a vehicle during an operation that was "based on specific intelligence targeting a known senior Taliban leader," ISAF said.
The vehicle failed to stop after verbal commands and warning shots, it said, and in the ensuing "engagement of the vehicle" by troops, two people died and two others were wounded. A fifth man who was not hurt was handed over to Afghan security forces.
The troops thought they were targeting an insurgent who has regular contact with Taliban leaders in Pakistan and has alleged ties to a car-bomb network in Faryab, ISAF said.
But local officials at the scene advised the joint forces that they believe the men were not linked to the targeted Taliban leader.
"We take seriously our duty to protect the Afghan population from insurgent violence, and we deeply regret this incident," Dawkins said.
ISAF said it plans to work with Afghan officials to carry out the investigations. I has briefed the Faryab governor on the incident.