US May Have Used Phosphorus in Afghanistan

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 10, 2009 5:01 PM CDT
Afghan border policemen stand around a vehicle after it was hit by a remote controlled bomb in Dah Bala of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 10, 2009.    (Rahmat Gul)
camera-icon View 5 more images

(Newser) – Doctors have voiced concern over "unusual" burns on Afghan villagers wounded in an already controversial US-Taliban battle, and the country's top human rights groups said today it is investigating the possibility white phosphorus was used. The US military denied using the incendiary in a Farah province battle that President Hamid Karzai has said killed 125 to 130 civilians—but left open the possibility that Taliban militants did.

The US says Taliban fighters have used white phosphorus—a spontaneously flammable material that leaves severe chemical burns on flesh—at least four times the last 2 years. Using white phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is considered legitimate under international law, but rights groups say its use over populated areas can indiscriminately burn civilians and constitutes a war crime.