UTRECHT, Netherlands -- A report claims United States troops in Iraq in 2003 fired ammunition containing depleted uranium at civilians and enemy soldiers.
The ammunition -- chemically toxic and noted for its armor-piercing capabilities -- is meant for use targeting tanks and armored vehicles, not people. A U.S. military directive, written to comply with international law, advises against using it on human targets.
The report by the Dutch group Pax, to be published later this week, says the directive was largely ignored by U.S. troops in Iraq; it includes coordinates where U.S. tanks and aircraft fired nearly 10,000 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition. Information on the coordinates has never been available prior to the report, despite requests from the Iraqi government and the United Nations.
The data show many rounds were fired in or near populated areas, and at least 1,500 rounds were specifically aimed at enemy troops.
Pax said at least 300 sites in Iraq were chemically contaminated by use of depleted uranium, and that an environmental clean-up will cost at least $30 million.
Wim Zwijnenburg, author of the report, said the U.S. Air Force was aware of the consequences of using the ammunition.
"The use of DU against these targets questions the adherence of coalition forces to their own principles and guidelines. They should be held accountable for the consequences," Zwijnenburg said.
The report cites a 1975 memo in which the U.S. Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate concluded depleted uranium ammunition could be used, but it contained restrictions on its use.
"Use of this munition solely against personnel is prohibited if alternative weapons are available," the memo said, noting legal reasons "related to the prohibitions against unnecessary suffering and poison". It added the ammunition "may cause fires which spread thereby causing potential risks of disproportionate injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects. Precautions to avoid or minimize such risks shall be taken in the use of this weapon or alternate available weapons should be used."