By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. troops shot dead four Afghan soldiers and wounded four outside the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Wednesday when they mistakenly thought they were coming under attack, Afghan officials said.
A spokesman for the embassy declined comment on the incident, which could prove an embarrassment for the United States, the main backer of the fragile government of President Hamid Karzai.
Afghan police said one U.S. soldier may have been wounded when one of the wounded Afghan soldiers fired back in self-defense.
"There was no firing from the Afghan side, except for one of the wounded soldiers who fired back after the Americans fired at him," Police General Abdul Rauf told Reuters.
"Four Afghan have been killed, four others have been wounded and possibly one American."
The fortress-like embassy in central Kabul is guarded by heavily armed soldiers in sandbagged watchtowers.
Afghan intelligence officials said U.S. soldiers guarding the embassy opened fire when they spotted the Afghans moving weapons from a military compound opposite.
"It was a misunderstanding," Amrullah Salihi, a senior intelligence official, told Reuters.
A second Afghan intelligence official said the incident occurred as the Afghan soldiers were carrying guns from the military base into a car.
"The U.S. soldiers thought the Afghan soldiers were aiming guns at them," he told Reuters. "They panicked and opened fire.
U.S. soldiers blocked off the road in front of the embassy immediately after the mid-morning incident.
A spokeswoman for the international peacekeeping force and an official the Afghan garrison guarding Kabul said there appeared to have been an exchange of fire outside the embassy.
"ISAF knows of an exchange of fire outside the U.S. embassy," Major Sarah Wood of the International Security Assistance Force told Reuters.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was wounded when a device exploded in the Gardez area in the southeast of the country on Tuesday.
The U.S. military is leading a multinational force pursuing remnants of the former Taliban regime ousted in late 2001 and the allied al Qaeda network blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States that year.