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US marines shoot dead young Afghan boy in bad weather: police

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. troops fighting in bad weather accidentally shot dead a young Afghan boy, local police said Friday, straining already tense ties between the two countries.

Marines gunned down the child, who was between 4 and 5 years old, after they were shot at and returned fire in the Nadali District of Helmand Province, Assistant Police Chief Abdullah Chopan told NBC News.

"It’s very likely to have happened because visibility was not good, it was raining and cloudy," Chopan said.

He said the child was a girl, but he and the Helmand governor's spokesman later confirmed it was a boy. The incident happened on Wednesday, hours after another firefight involving U.S. forces in the area.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was not immediately available for comment.

American relations with Afghanistan have soured recently as President Hamid Karzai's refuses to sign a security deal that would allow American troops to remain in the country after the large-scale withdrawal of international forces this year.

Alexander Smith reported from London.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported the child was a girl based on information from an Afghan police source. The source later confirmed the child was in fact a boy.