US troops opened fire on a group of Iraqi demonstrators near Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 13 people and wounding 75 others, according to reports from the area.
Qatar's al-Jazeera television station reported that troops had fired on the demonstrators in the town of Falluja, around 30 miles west of Baghdad, after someone in the crowd threw a stone at US soldiers. The protesters had been demonstrating against the continued US presence in Iraq, al-Jazeera said.
US central command in Qatar said troops had shot at armed Iraqis who had fired on the soldiers. Witnesses said that the demonstrators, who had been protesting at a local school, had not been armed. They said that the protest had been peaceful.
A correspondent for the Reuters news agency in Falluja said that residents put the death toll at between 13 and 17 people. The director of the main hospital in Falluja said 13 people had died and said his staff and treated another 75 people.
A local Sunni Muslim cleric, Kamal Shaker Mahmoud, told Reuters that the demonstrators had gone to a school occupied by US troops to ask them to leave.
"They were asking the Americans to leave the school so they could use it," he said. "They opened fire on the protesters because they went out to demonstrate. We are asking the Americans to completely leave Iraq, but first we want them to leave residential areas."
An al-Jazeera reporter in Baghdad said that the injured were being treated at five hospitals around Falluja. The Reuters correspondent witnessed six burials.
Elsewhere in Iraq, US central command today said that Saddam Hussein's former oil minister had surrendered to coalition forces.
Amer Mohammed Rashid, known to UN weapons inspectors as the "Missile Man", turned himself in yesterday. A former general with expertise in weapons delivery systems, he was ranked 47th on the US military's list of the 55 most-wanted officials from Saddam's regime.
Mr Rashid is married to Rihab Taha, the microbiologist known as "Dr Germ" who was in charge of the secret Iraqi facility that weaponised anthrax and other toxic substances. US forces raided her house in Baghdad last month, but there was no word on her whereabouts.