"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone..."
Italian state TV, Rai, broadcast a documentary which showed evidence that U.S. forces used phosphorus bombs against Iraqi civilians during the bloody offensive on the city of Fallujah in November 2004, BBC reported.
It showed eyewitnesses and former U.S. soldiers who took part in the Fallujah assault saying that white phosphorus bombs were widely deployed in the city as a weapon.
Rai said this amounts to the illegal use of chemical weapons, though such bombs are considered incendiary devices.
The use of chemical weapons is banned by a treaty which Washington signed in 1997.
The transmission comes a day after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Italy for a five-day official visit.
It also comes on the first anniversary of the U.S.-led offensive on Fallujah, which displaced most of the city’s 300,000 residents and left its buildings destroyed.
- Hidden Massacre
The documentary, entitled Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, started with formerly classified footage of U.S. forces using Napalm bombs during the Vietnam war.
It then showed high-quality, close-up images of several bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their bed, with their skin dissolved but clothes still intact.
A biologist in Fallujah, Mohammad Tareq, interviewed by the film, said: "A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact."
A former U.S. soldier who took part in the offensive said: "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete,”
"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for.” the soldier added.
The film repeated accusations that the U.S. has systematically attempted to destroy filmed evidence of the use of chemical arms in the Fallujah assault.
It provided clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in Fallujah attack, in violation of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
The United Nations banned the use of the napalm gas against civilians in 1980 after pictures of a naked wounded girl in Vietnam shocked the world.
The United States, which didn't endorse the convention, is the only nation in the world still using the deadly weapon.
- Banned weapons
Following the 2004 offensive, media reports and Fallujah residents said that U.S. forces used chemical arms on the city.
The U.S. army admitted using phosphorus arms in Iraq to illuminate battlefields, but denied using other banned weapons.
"Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. U.S. forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes,” the USinfo website said in December last year. "They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."
But the Rai film proves that the U.S. army didn’t use phosphorus to illuminate enemy positions (which would have been legitimate) but instead dropped white phosphorus indiscriminately and in massive quantities on the city's neighborhoods.
The revelation makes the U.S. responsible for a massacre using banned weapons, the same charge for which the toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is accused of.
- Troop withdrawal
The Italian public has been consistently against the Iraq war, and the Rai documentary can only strengthen calls for an immediate troop withdrawal, correspondents say.
But the Italian government and opposition leaders are considering a gradual withdrawal in 2006.
President Talabani urged Italy on Monday to keep its troops in Iraq, saying that a premature withdrawal will hurt his country.
Italy has about 3,000 soldiers in Iraq, the fourth largest contingent in the war-torn country after the U.S., Britain and South Korea.