Pictures and videos posted online by the Pentagon shows US forces in Iraq have used white phosphorus munitions, a chemical weapon that can cause severe burn wounds to civilians.
Based on images posted on Pentagon-managed public affairs website,Dvids,The Washington Post reported on Friday that a US Army artillery unit was using the controversial chemical weapon in Iraq.
The weapon, which was identified by the post as M825A1 155mm rounds, are generally used to make smoke screens or signals for advancing troops.
But when used in civilian-populated areas, the munitions can cause horrific injuries that can even be dangerous for medics treating the wounds, according to the report.
The US forces are purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
When asked if the forces had used the munitions for anything other than screening, obscuring or marking, John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, refused to explain, the report said.
Dorrian did not elaborate on how many times the forces used the munitions or whether they had been dropped on the terrorists or their equipment.
He said the image was taken when US forces were supporting Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in an operation against Daesh in the northern Iraqi town of Gwer.
Dorrian said white phosphorus munitions had been “used generally for the circumstances which I described,” but did not say if they had been used in the town, with or without the presence of civilians.
Colonel Joseph Scrocca, public affairs director for the US-led coalition, claimed that the shells are used “in areas free of civilians and never against enemy forces.”
The associate arms director for Human Rights Watch, Mark Hiznay, said he was concerned about the possible use of white phosphorus shells by the US forces in Iraq.
"When white phosphorus is used in attacks in areas containing concentrations of civilians and civilian objects, it will indiscriminately start fires over a wide area,” Hiznay added.
The US had formerly used the chemical munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a specific incident which occurred in 2009 in Afghanistan, an 8-year-old girl burned to death with the munitions in Kapisa province.
Human Rights Watch called on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to investigate the use of the munitions by its forces. The NATO, however, denied the allegations.
International humanitarian law demands the ammunition should only be used in areas devoid of civilians. Right groups, however, concern about the use of the chemical munitions even against enemy combatants.