12 May 2009

Taliban Using White Phosphorus Made in Britain

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The London Times reports on a dangerous new weapon currently in the hands of the Taliban.

Taleban fighters have been using deadly white phosphorus munitions, some of them manufactured in Britain, to attack Western forces in Afghanistan, according to previously classified United States documents released yesterday.

White phosphorus, which can burn its victims down to the bone, has been found in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in regions across Afghanistan including in the south, where British troops are based. It has also been used in mortar and rocket attacks on American forces. …

Major Jennifer Willis, a spokeswoman for the US Army at Bagram, near Kabul, said that markings on some of the white phosphorus munitions that had been recovered showed that they had been manufactured in a number of different countries, including Britain, China, Russia and Iran.

Although a full investigation is under way, it is not yet clear how the Taleban and other insurgent forces using them had acquired the white phosphorus munitions from Britain. However, Major Willis said that Afghanistan was littered with ordnance of every kind and it was not a surprise that the insurgents had got their hands on white phosphorus.

The US military said that the Taleban had found white phosphorus rounds left over from the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. But there were newer models which, it is suspected, had been smuggled across the border from Pakistan.

Major Willis said that the use of white phosphorus in IEDs was a relatively new development. The earliest report of the insurgents using white phosphorus was in February 2003, but the eight known IED cases, including one in the south, have all occurred since March 2007.

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