The US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria appears to have used white phosphorus-loaded munitions on at least two occasions in densely populated areas of Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqa, according to a newly released videos posted online and human rights groups.
White phosphorus is an incendiary and toxic chemical substance. The munitions filled with the substance create a thick white cloud when they explode. Upon contact with flesh, the substance can maim and kill by burning to the bone. Human rights groups warn against the use of the substance.
Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of citizen journalists who document abuses in the ISIL stronghold of Raqa, posted footage online showing the signature spread of airburst white phosphorus — probably from M825 series 155-milimeter artillery rounds — while exploding over the Syrian city’s eastern part.
Similar videos were also published online, appearing to show the use of white phosphorus bombs by the US-led coalition warplanes in the Iraqi city of Mosul as well.
Mary Wareham, the advocacy director at Human Rights Watch’s arms division, said the organization was trying to determine the veracity of the videos.
US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, said he would not confirm the use of the munitions but claimed that the US military employed it in “accordance with the law of armed conflict” and that white phosphorus rounds were “used for screening, obscuring, and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures.”
“The coalition takes all reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of incidental injury to non-combatants and damage to civilian structures,” he claimed.
Last month, the Pentagon posted photographs taken in March of US Marines using white phosphorus munitions in Syria.