Phosphorus may have killed civilians in Iraq
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
11/17/05 "FT" -- -- The US military on Wednesday acknowledged it
might have killed civilians in the Iraqi city of Falluja with white
phosphorus munitions during the battle against insurgents a year
The Pentagon insisted civilians had not been targeted, however, and
that it had avoided unnecessary casualties by evacuating the city
before the offensive.
White phosphorus, which is fired by artillery or mortars, can be
used as an incendiary device or to create a smokescreen.
While it is not classified as a chemical weapon, the chemical is
covered by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Conventional
Weapons, which prohibits the use of incendiary weapons against
military forces located within concentrations of civilians – as was
the case with the insurgents in Falluja. The US is party to the
convention but, unlike a number of its allies, including the UK, it
has not signed Protocol III.
Last week, Italy’s Rai 24 news channel broadcast a documentary that
alleged many civilians had been burned to death by the incendiary
devices during the assault. It showed bodies burned to the bone
inside clothes that remained intact.
Narmin Uthman, Iraq’s acting human rights minister, said an Iraqi
team would investigate the claims.
“The documentary offers no compelling evidence as to how the people
in the various images actually died,” Lieutenant-Colonel Barry
Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, told the FT. He said he was not aware
of any US inquiry into the issue.
Asked if it was possible civilians had been killed by white
phosphorus, he replied: “It would not be out of the realm of the
The UK defence ministry said the British army only used white
phosphorus for smokescreens.
© Copyright The Financial Times
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)