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U.S. troops leave school after deadly clash with Iraqis

Central Command: Soldiers acted in self-defense

Angry Iraqis confront a U.S. soldier posted on guard Tuesday in Fallujah after a clash Monday night.
Angry Iraqis confront a U.S. soldier posted on guard Tuesday in Fallujah after a clash Monday night.

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FALLUJAH, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. troops pulled out of a school in a farming community 40 miles west of Baghdad on Tuesday night, a day after their presence there sparked a deadly clash with hundreds of Iraqi protesters.

Conflicting accounts emerged about Monday night's confrontation in Fallujah that Red Cross officials said killed at least 15 civilians and wounded up to 53 others. Among the dead were three boys under the age of 11, Red Cross officials said.

The violence broke out as the demonstrators approached members of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division -- based at the elementary school -- and demanded that they leave, according to a telecommunications engineer. (Full story)

U.S. Central Command said that the protesters fired on the soldiers with AK-47s and that the soldiers fired back in self-defense.

According to CNN's Karl Penhaul the demonstrators say that didn't occur. They say that some of their number did start throwing stones, and that is what prompted the U.S. soldiers to open fire. The engineer says that at that point "all hell broke loose." (On the Scene: Karl Penhaul)

One U.S. Army sergeant said he shot at what he saw, "and what I saw was targets. Targets with weapons, and they were going to harm me."

"It's either them or me, and I took the shot, sir, and I'm still here talking to you," he said.

A second U.S. soldier said the clash began when some protesters started throwing rocks at the soldiers and others started chanting.

"Then others joined in throwing rocks, and others brought weapons to the party," the soldier said. "Then they started firing them -- not just into the air but toward the soldiers on top of the buildings."

The confrontation reportedly went on for hours.

The situation at Fallujah is under investigation, Pentagon officials said.

U.S. military officials said they occupied the school originally because they had evidence that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used schools to stash weapons.

Soldiers said they found no evidence that the Iraqi military stored weapons at this school, but they said they decided to stay in the building to keep control of the neighborhood. They moved in five days ago, military officials said.

Residents said U.S. soldiers had occupied the 20-classroom school for 10 days.

Two more Iraqis surrender

Meanwhile, Central Command said Tuesday two more members on its list of most-wanted Iraqis in custody.

Walid Hamid Tawfiq al-Tikriti, the former governor of Basra -- Iraq's second largest city -- surrendered to the Iraqi National Congress and representatives of the U.S. Defense Department, a spokesman for the Iraqi exile group said Tuesday.

He is 44th on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis and the eight of clubs in the deck of cards given to U.S. troops to help identify former regime leaders. (Cards)

Also Tuesday, Central Command announced that Iraq's former oil minister, Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi, had surrendered Monday.

Al-Ubaydi -- the six of spades -- had been an adviser to Saddam and is No. 47 on the most-wanted list. (Full story)

Other developments

• The Iraqi lawyer who officials say took great risks to help with the rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch has been granted asylum in the United States. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that the man, previously known only as Muhammad, has been granted asylum along with his wife and daughter. (Full story)

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meets Prince Khalid bin Sultan, Saudi deputy defense minister, in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meets Prince Khalid bin Sultan, Saudi deputy defense minister, in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

• Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has told his U.S. interrogators that he last saw Saddam on April 6 -- a day before a second U.S. attempt to kill the Iraqi leader in an airstrike, officials said Tuesday. The officials also said Aziz said he was told that U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Speicher was killed when his plane was shot down in 1991 and was never held as a prisoner in Iraq. Officials note that Aziz held this position when he still was in power. An official called it "the regime party line" and said U.S. intelligence has "no idea" whether it is true.

• Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, said Tuesday that Saddam "may be hiding in the city, but he is not in power and he will be caught." Blount said that snipers have fired upon U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital but that most of the attackers were either killed or arrested.

• U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived Tuesday at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, a day after defense sources told CNN the United States plans to reduce military operations there. (Full story, Prince Sultan Air Base) Rumsfeld, who is on a Middle East tour to discuss post-war Iraq and thank regional leaders for their support, planned to hold a town hall-style session with U.S. pilots and crews.

• Nassir Hindawi -- the man considered the father of Iraq's biological weapons program -- told CNN that he believes that program was shut down years ago -- something Saddam's regime claimed -- and that U.S. search teams are unlikely to find evidence of such weapons.

• Suspected chemical weapons material in northern Iraq was undergoing further analysis after previous tests gave conflicting results. Initial tests indicated the deadly nerve agent cyclosarin and an unspecified blister agent in a stash of 55-gallon drums, about 130 miles (208 kilometers) north of Baghdad. (Full story)

• British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned it was too early to say that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. "I remain confident they will be found," Blair told reporters. (Full story)

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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