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Marines Begin Withdrawal from Fallujah - 2004-04-30


Witnesses say U.S. Marines are pulling back from positions around the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which U.S. forces have kept under siege for nearly a month.

U.S. military officials on the scene say a tentative deal has been reached in which an Iraqi-led force of about 1,000 men will take responsibility for security in Fallujah.

Residents of the city cheered Friday, when the commander named to lead the proposed force, Jasim Mohammed Saleh, walked through the city center. Mr. Saleh was a general in ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's feared Republican Guard.

Pentagon officials have yet to confirm the agreement, but Marines were seen leaving frontline positions south of the city Friday.

Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city in central Iraq, located west of Baghdad, has been a focal point of anti-coalition resistance. U.S. authorities have said many of the estimated 2,000 insurgents are thought to have served under Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Marines encircled Fallujah early this month and began a crackdown after four American civilian security guards were killed inside the city and their bodies publicly mutilated.

Elsewhere in Iraq, 10 U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks Thursday -- eight of them in a car bombing just south of Baghdad. A foreign civilian died in Basra.

More than 120 soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq in April -- more than during the U.S.-led invasion of the country last year.

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