US has acknowledged using incendiary white phosphorus munitions in a 2004 offensive in the Iraqi city of Fallujah but defended their use as legal.Italian state-run broadcaster RAI reported early this month that US military froces in Iraq used incendiary white phosphorus against men, women and children in Fallujah, who were burned to the bone.
Army Lt Col Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, admited Wednesday that phosphorus was indeed "used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants."
The Pentagon insisted civilians had not been targeted, however, and that it had avoided unnecessary casualties by evacuating the city before the offensive.
Washington's new position is that phosphorus is "not a chemical weapon" and "not outlawed or illegal". White phosphorus munitions are primarily used by the US military to make smoke screens and mark targets, but also as an incendiary weapon, the Pentagon says.
In a documentary broadcast early this month, a former American soldier who fought at Fallujah said: "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete."
"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children.
Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for." The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980, reports Xinxua. Photo: Xinxua I.L.