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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

U.S. Says It Used Phosphorus as Weapon

November 16, 2005|From Associated Press

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.

"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition," the authors wrote.

"We used it for screening missions at two breaches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes."

The authors of the "after action" report said they had encountered few civilians in their area of operations.

Italy's state-run Rai24 television news aired a documentary last week alleging that the U.S. had used white phosphorus shells in a "massive and indiscriminate way" against civilians during the Fallouja offensive.

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