WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. troops had used white phosphorus as a weapon against insurgents during the battle for Fallouja last November. But they denied an Italian television news report that the spontaneously flammable material had been used against civilians.
Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said that although white phosphorus is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallouja as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.
"It was not used against civilians," he said.
Venable said white phosphorus shells are a standard weapon used by field artillery units and are not banned by any international weapons convention to which the United States is a signatory.
The spokesman referred reporters to an article in the March-April 2005 edition of the Army's Field Artillery magazine, an official publication, in which veterans of the Fallouja fight spelled out their use of white phosphorus, referred to as WP, and other weapons.