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Iraq investigating reports of US white phosphorus weapons

[JURIST] Iraqi human rights officials are investigating reports that US troops in Iraq used white phosphorus [CDC factsheet; GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] as an incendiary weapon during a 2004 military assault on the insurgent-controlled city of Fallujah. According to Acting Human Rights Minister Narmin Uthman, a team of investigators has gone to Fallujah to examine the possible effects of the substance on civilians. The US was first reported to have fired white phosphorus rounds [SF Chronicle report] at the time, and rights organizations expressed repeated concerns over alleged violations of international humanitarian law [JURIST report] during the siege. The allegations resurfaced earlier this month when an Italian television station aired a documentary accusing the US of using chemical weapons against civilians [JURIST report]. In 2004, the US denied the allegations [USINFO report] and said that white phosphorus shells "were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters," however, officials now admit they used white phosphorus as a psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and a Pentagon officials said Tuesday that white phosphorous had been used against enemy combatants [JURIST report]. US officials remain adamant that the substance was not used against civilians and have said that white phosphorus is not banned by any international weapons convention the US has signed. The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned by a protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons [text] since 1980, but the US has not signed the protocol. BBC News has more.

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