Afghan civilians’ white phosphorus death probe


This is a video about United States use of illegal white phosphorus in Fallujah town, Iraq.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Probe into Afghan white phosphorus use

Sunday 10 May 2009

AFGHAN human rights monitors said on Sunday they are investigating the possible use of white phosphorus in a US air raid that killed 147 civilians.

Doctors are concerned over what they are calling “unusual” burns on Afghans wounded in last Monday’s battle with Taliban guerillas in Farah province.

Herat Regional Hospital burn unit head Dr Mohammad Aref Jalali, who has treated five patients wounded in the battle, said: “I think it’s the result of a chemical used in a bomb, but I’m not sure what kind of chemical.

“But if it was a result of a burning house – from petrol or gas cylinders – that kind of burn would look different,” he said.

Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission member Nader Nadery said that officials had met patients and were investigating.

UN human rights investigators have also seen “extensive” burn wounds on victims and have raised questions about how the injuries were caused.

White phosphorus is a spontaneously flammable light metal which can cause chemical burns, blindness and suffocation from its caustic smoke.

It is used to mark targets, create smoke screens or as a weapon. International law bans its use in residential areas.

The US military continued to blame the Taliban for the massacre on Sunday.

April 2013: Israel bowed to pressure today and announced that it will be phasing out white phosphorus smokescreen munitions: here.

20 thoughts on “Afghan civilians’ white phosphorus death probe

  1. May 10, 3:12 PM EDT

    Concerns white phosphorus used in Afghan battle

    By JASON STRAZIUSO and RAHIM FAIEZ
    Associated Press Writers

    KABUL (AP) — Doctors voiced concern over “unusual” burns on Afghan villagers wounded in an already controversial U.S.-Taliban battle, and the country’s top human rights groups said Sunday it is investigating the possibility white phosphorus was used.

    The American military denied using the incendiary in the battle in Farah province – which President Hamid Karzai has said killed 125 to 130 civilians – but left open the possibility that Taliban militants did. The U.S. says Taliban fighters have used white phosphorus, a spontaneously flammable material that leaves severe chemical burns on flesh, at least four times the last two 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.

    Afghan doctors told The Associated Press they have treated at least 14 patients with severe burns the doctors have never seen before. The villagers were wounded during last Monday’s battle in Farah province.

    Allegations that white phosphorus or another chemical may have been used threatens to deepen the controversy over what Afghan officials say could be the worst case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban regime.

    In Kabul on Sunday, hundreds of people marched near Kabul University to protest the U.S. military’s role in the deaths. Protesters carried signs denouncing the U.S. and chanted anti-American slogans.

    The incident in Farah drew the condemnation of Karzai, who called for an end to airstrikes. The U.S. has said militants kept villagers captive in hopes they would die in the fighting, creating a civilian casualties controversy.

    However, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser said Sunday the United States would not end airstrikes. Retired Gen. James Jones refused to rule out any action because “we can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

    Along with Afghan and U.S. investigations into the battle, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has been looking into concerns that white phosphorus may have been used after strange burns were reported. Nader Nadery, a commissioner in the leading rights organization, said more investigation was needed.

    “Our teams have met with patients,” Nadery told AP. “They are investigating the cause of the injuries and the use of white phosphorus.”

    White phosphorus is a spontaneously flammable material that can cause painful chemical burns. It is used to mark targets, create smoke screens or as a weapon, and can be delivered by shells, flares or hand grenades, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

    Human rights groups denounce its use for the severe burns it causes, though it is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory.

    The U.S. military used white phosphorus in the battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November 2004. Israel’s military used it in January against Hamas targets in Gaza.

    Col. Greg Julian, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said the U.S. did not use white phosphorus as a weapon in last week’s battle. The U.S. does use white phosphorous to illuminate the night sky, he said.

    Julian noted that military officials believe that Taliban militants have used white phosphorus at least four times in Afghanistan in the past two years. “I don’t know if they (militants) had it out there or not, but it’s not out of the question,” he said.

    A spokesman for the Taliban could not be reached for comment Sunday.

    The U.S. military on Saturday said that Afghan doctors in Farah told American officials the injuries seen in wounded Afghans from two villages in the province’s Bala Baluk district could have resulted from hand grenades or exploding propane tanks.

    Dr. Mohammad Aref Jalali, the head of the burn unit at the Herat Regional Hospital in western Afghanistan who has treated five patients wounded in the battle, described the burns as “unusual.”

    “I think it’s the result of a chemical used in a bomb, but I’m not sure what kind of chemical. But if it was a result of a burning house – from petrol or gas cylinders – that kind of burn would look different,” he said.

    Gul Ahmad Ayubi, the deputy head of Farah’s health department, said the province’s main hospital had received 14 patients after the battle, all with burn wounds. Five patients were sent to Herat.

    “There has been other airstrikes in Farah in the past. We had injuries from those battles, but this is the first time we have seen such burns on the bodies. I’m not sure what kind of bomb it was,” he said.

    U.N. human rights investigators have also seen “extensive” burn wounds on victims and have raised questions about how the injuries were caused, said a U.N. official who asked not to be identified talking about internal deliberations. The U.N. has reached no conclusions about whether any chemical weapons may have been used, the official said.

    Afghan officials say up to 147 people may have died in the battle in Farah, though the U.S. says that number is exaggerated.

    The investigation into the Farah battle coincides with an appeal by Human Rights Watch for NATO forces to release results of an investigation into a March 14 incident in which an 8-year-old Afghan girl was burned by white phosphorus munitions in Kapisa province.

    The New York-based group said Saturday that white phosphorus “causes horrendous burns and should not be used in civilian areas.”

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  2. Concerns raised about white phosphorus use in Afghan battle
    Updated at: 1520 PST, Monday, May 11, 2009
    KABUL: Doctors 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 it is investigating the possibility white phosphorus was used.

    The American military on Sunday denied using the incendiary in the battle in Farah province, which 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 two 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.

    Afghan doctors told a foreign news agency that they have treated at least 14 patients with severe burns the doctors have never seen before. The villagers were wounded during last Monday’s battle in Farah province.

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/updates.asp?id=77355

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  3. May 11, 2009, EDT.

    Overseas commander gets an earful about Afghan mission

    Murray Brewster, THE CANADIAN PRESS

    Canadian Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier is shown in this photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland”

    OTTAWA – While on his way to the shower at Kandahar’s provincial reconstruction base last month, Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier bumped into a worn-out soldier who unloaded on him about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

    With both of them out of uniform, the soldier spewed out his frustration to the man who retires Monday after leading all of the country’s overseas operations for the last three-and-a-half years. Gauthier listened quietly.

    “He did not have absolutely positive things to say about the tour and was very much looking forward to getting back to Canada after seven-and-a-half months,” recalled Gauthier, who retires after 36 years.

    “Of course he didn’t know who I was. He was being a little more frank than he would have been knowing there was a three-star general in his presence.”

    The unidentified soldier, a 23-year veteran, drove an ambulance with a quick-reaction force of troops, retrieving wounded comrades and attending the dead before evacuation helicopters arrive. A few weeks earlier, a roadside bomb blast had struck the vehicle in front of him, killed a couple of buddies and left the frustrated soldier wounded.

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  4. Karzai Brother Strong-Arms Reporter

    Ahmed Wali Karzai (right), the president’s brother, sits in early April with other members of Kandahar’s provincial council.

    May 11, 2009

    McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Tom Lasseter has written a scathing piece accusing the powerful brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai of threatening him with physical violence after a little tough questioning. It happened while Lasseter was reporting for the piece “Afghan Drug Trade Thrives With Help, And Neglect, Of Officials.”

    After Ahmed Wali Karzai casually dismisses an official’s claim of his intervention to free “a Taliban commander who’d been arrested in a major drug-trafficking area,” Lasseter says the president’s brother launches into “a litany of obscenities and [says] he was about to beat me.”

    “You should leave right now,” he said.

    I stuck my hand out to shake his; if I learned anything from three years of reporting in Iraq and then trips to Afghanistan during the past couple of years, it’s that when things turn bad, you should cling to any remaining shred of hospitality.

    Karzai grabbed my hand and used it to give me a bit of a push into the next room. He followed me, and his voice rose until it was a scream of curse words and threats.

    I managed to record just one full sentence: “Get the (expletive) out before I kick your (expletive).”

    Lasseter says he got the message and high-tailed it out of Kandahar.

    Few would argue with the Karzai government’s practice of labeling as “enemies of Afghanistan” the militants and other miscreants still targeting ordinary Afghans and the central government with violence.

    But now president Karzai’s brothers, Kandahar provincial council chairman Ahmed Wali Karzai (“I am just the victim of their politics”) and Mahmoud Karzai (“all these attacks and allegations are of a political nature”), have employed similar language to deflect legitimate questions about their activities.

    The thing is, it’s becoming difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is more than political sniping behind the persistent tumult stemming from the Karzais’ entrepreneurial and political activities.

    And sure, the timing’s bad for the president, whose reelection bid is just months away.

    But it’s worse for weary Afghans, who desperately need to believe that their situation can improve and that democratic elections are part of the solution.

    — Andy Heil

    http://www.rferl.org/Content/Karzai_Brother_StrongArms_Reporter/1661389.html

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  5. ‘US has not met its “moral standards” in Afghanistan’

    Washington, May 11: Smarting from frequent US air attacks and resultant “massive” civilian toll in his country, President Hamid Karzai has said America has not met its “moral standard” in Afghanistan and warned that any society will be “fed up” with such “continued casualties”.

    “The US has not met that standard in Afghanistan. The United States must stand on a much higher moral platform in order for us together to win this war,” Karzai said in an interview to NBC News.

    http://www.zeenews.com/news530875.html

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  6. Afghan war costs to overtake Iraq

    From correspondents in Washington

    Agence France-Presse

    May 08, 2009 06:49am

    THE cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan will overtake that of the Iraq conflict for the first time in 2010, Pentagon budget documents show.

    On top of the basic defence budget of $US533.7 billion ($715 billion), the White House is requesting a further $US130 billion ($174.1 billion) for overseas missions, including $US65 billion ($87.1 billion) for Afghanistan and $US61 billion ($81.7 billion) for Iraq.

    “This request is where you’re going to first see the swing of not only dollars or resources, but combat capability, from the Iraqi theatre into the Afghan theatre,” said navy vice-admiral Steve Stanley, director of force structure for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    About 136,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, but they are set to be progressively withdrawn by the end of 2011, in accordance with a security pact signed between Washington and Baghdad late last year.

    The withdrawal from Iraq will be accompanied by a buildup in Afghanistan, which President Barack Obama has set as one of his priorities, dispatching 21,000 additional troops to the region to combat an emboldened insurgency.

    US forces in Afghanistan are set to reach 68,000 by the end of this year.

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