Afghanistan has barred two private security firms from one of the country's most dangerous highways after their guards shot and killed two civilians, the government said today.
The victims were killed accidentally in separate incidents on the road that connects the Afghan capital Kabul to the south -- the heartland of the Taliban militants waging a bloody insurgency against the Western-backed government.
Civilian deaths are a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan and interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said both companies had also been ordered to pay compensation to the victims' families.
"The perpetrators of both incidents have been arrested and are being prosecuted," he told journalists at a press conference in Kabul following the killings, which both occurred in the last two weeks.
"The ministry of interior warns all private security firms to conduct their operations within the boundaries of the law and avoid shooting at people."
The two firms, Compass and Watan Risk Management, are among 52 private security companies registered to operate in Afghanistan, where security has deteriorated in recent years.
Their clients include NATO and US-led forces, aid agencies and private businesses, which use them to provide armed escorts for convoys travelling on dangerous roads.
Civilian deaths caused by foreign forces fell 28 per cent last year, the United Nations has said.
But such incidents continue to undermine efforts to win Afghan hearts and minds and are a source of tension between the Afghan government and foreign forces.
The United States and allies are ordering thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan, where foreign troop numbers are set to peak at 150,000 by August, in a bid to reverse the Taliban insurgency as quickly as possible.