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Chemical weapon white phosphorous 'being used in Raqqa air strikes'

Activists on the ground report air strikes on Syria have included the use of white phosphorus, which causes horrific burns if targeted at people

Adam Withnall
Monday 23 November 2015 14:30 GMT
Russia says it has been bombarding Isis positions in Syria since the end of September
Russia says it has been bombarding Isis positions in Syria since the end of September (EPA)

Chemical weapons are being used in air strikes against Isis in Raqqa, it has been reported.

Activists on the ground in the Isis stronghold in Syria have reported the use of the banned substance white phosphorus.

Known as WP, use of the highly flammable chemical is accepted under international law in order to light up the battlefield and provide cover for ground troops.

But it is banned for use in densely populated areas or when directly targeted at infantry because it is highly toxic and can burn through skin and bone.

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a network of citizen journalists which represents the primary source for information from inside the Isis-held city, said there were reports “that air strikes targeted Raqqa today (Sunday) with phosphorus” munitions.

It is thought to be the first reported use of white phosphorus in air strikes on Raqqa, which has been heavily bombed by the Russian and French air forces in the wake of the Paris attacks.

On 13 November, witnesses in the opposition-controlled city of Idlib in north-western Syria told The Times dozens of civilians had suffered “horrific injuries” following two attacks using WP.

Ahmed, an activist based in Idlib, told the newspaper: “We knew it was phosphorus because the entire sky lit up and when it settled it set everything on fire.”

Russian radio chatter between the pilots and their bases was intercepted by local activists, Ahmed claimed.

He said the two villages targeted were full of civilians, and located at least 40 miles from the nearest militant positions. Video posted online purported to show the attacks.

Despite newfound collaboration between Russia and the West on Syria in the aftermath of the Paris shootings, US officials and experts have accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of lacking the sufficient accuracy and intelligence reports to carry out air strikes without undue danger to civilians.

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