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At Least 4 Afghan Soldiers Killed in Friendly Fire Incident - 2003-05-21

American soldiers guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul have killed at least four Afghan soldiers, apparently mistaking them for attackers.

Local security officials say U.S. soldiers opened fire when they spotted the Afghans moving weapons to a military compound across from the embassy.

They say the U.S. guards thought the Afghan soldiers were aiming guns at them, which caused the shootout.

U.S. and local security forces in Kabul sealed off the area around the embassy immediately after the shooting, which is under investigation.

The incident occurred as U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are on high alert for possible terror attacks, following deadly bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco last week. The State Department has closed all its offices in Saudi Arabia.

Tensions have been high in the Afghan capital since an explosion not far from the heavily guarded U.S. embassy in April and a rocket attack on the nearby headquarters of international peacekeepers early this year. There were no causalities in those attacks.

Wednesday's shooting could prove embarrassing for the government of interim President Hamid Karzai. Some Afghan politicians and citizens dislike the presence of large numbers of U.S. troops in the country.

The U.S. military leads a multinational force in Afghanistan that is tracking down remnants of the ousted Taleban government and al-Qaida terrorist network. Afghan officials say these fugitives are attempting to destabilize the Kabul government by organizing guerilla attacks against foreign and local forces.