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U.S. denies innocents died in Fallujah

BAGHDAD, April 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. military has denied innocents were killed in the offensive against Sunni Muslims in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, The Guardian reported Monday.

The statement came in response to a claim by the director of the city's general hospital, Rafie al-Issawi, who said the vast majority of the estimated 600 dead were women, children and the elderly.

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Asked about the victims, U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne said: "What I think you will find is 95 percent of those were military age males that were killed in the fighting."

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, repeated that Marines were "tremendously precise" in their operations and suggested any civilian deaths were caused by insurgents hiding among them.

At least 50 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the past week, with another 10 over the Easter weekend. Nearly a third of Fallujah's 200,000 population fled the city during the weekend lull in fighting.

The U.S. civilian administrator, Paul Bremer, appealed Sunday for insurgents in Fallujah to hold their fire long enough for members of the Iraqi governing council to enter the Sunni stronghold for negotiations. That ceasefire collapsed early Monday.

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