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Daesh media accuses US-led forces of using white phosphorous in Raqqa

Image of white phosphorous [President Goldman‏/Twitter]
White phosphorous [President Goldman‏/Twitter]

US-led forces in Syria have been accused by the so-called Islamic State of using white phosphorous in eastern Raqqa, Britain's Telegraph has reported. Images purporting to be of the banned substance in use in the Syrian city appear to have been confirmed by an anti-Daesh group.

An anonymous US official told the New York Times that the US forces in Syria and Iraq are not using the banned munitions against personnel. White phosphorous burns through to the bone and keeps on burning as long as it is in contact with the air. Its use in populated areas is forbidden under international law. If it is used, it has to be in open areas for the purposes of laying down a smokescreen.

Read: Coalition raid kills 28 civilians in Syria's Raqqa

According to Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition against Daesh, "the US military" only uses white phosphorous in "accordance with the law of armed conflict." The munitions are "used for screening, obscuring and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures," he told the Washington Post. This may be true for US troops, a London-based observer pointed out, but Col. Dillon's carefully worded statement does not mention US-led forces, only "the US military".

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Thousands of civilians have fled Raqqa due to intense fighting, but the UN estimates that 160,000 remain in the city.

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